Faced with starvation in their native land, a multitude of brave Irish women faced the perils of an Atlantic crossing during the 1800s in the hope of becoming domestic servants in the United States. Thousands landed, lived, and worked in Connecticut, resulting in drama occasionally reminiscent of scenes from “Downton Abbey.” On Thursday, January 23, 2014, Neil Hogan, editor of the Connecticut Irish-American Historical Society’s newsletter, “The Shanachie,” will share research and stories collected as part of the Society’s ongoing oral history project.
Photo Credit: ITV
Hogan’s lecture, “Irish Women in Domestic Service,” will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the New Haven Museum; admission is free. (Snow date – Thursday, January 30, at 5:30 p.m.) The program is made possible by support from Connecticut Humanities and is part of “Connecticut at Work,” a year-long conversation about the past, present and future of work life in Connecticut created by Connecticut Humanities.
Arriving on Connecticut shores alone and with no marketable skills, young Irish women proved their mettle, performing domestic labor American women often refused to do. Hogan notes that housework was considered so demeaning that 19th-century, native-born women would sometimes accept lower-paying work rather than face the humiliating task of cleaning another’s home. Though faced with long hours, grueling physical labor, religious intolerance and a great many prejudices, in some cases the women found fulfillment, love and acceptance on American soil. Hogan will share stories of Irish domestics employed by some of Connecticut’s most prominent families—including those of Mark Twain, P.T. Barnum and the Beechers of Hartford—and at Wooster Square, the home of manufacturer J.B. Sargent and the Russell Military Academy, which employed an all-Irish, female domestic staff.
“Irish Women in Domestic Service,” is offered in conjunction with the Museum’s exhibition “Beyond the New Township: Wooster Square,” which runs through May 31, 2014. The talk is co-sponsored by the Connecticut Irish-American Historical Society and Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University. It is presented in conjunction with Connecticut at Work, an initiative of Connecticut Humanities, and a related exhibit, ‘The Way We Worked,” on view at the New Haven Free Public Library through January 19, 2014.
“Beyond the New Township: Wooster Square” offers an in-depth and often personal view of the neighborhood’s 18th-century beginnings, the evolution of industry and the arrival of immigrants, the effect of urban renewal, and the impact of historic preservation. The assemblage incorporates more than 200 objects from the Museum’s photo, manuscript, and fine and decorative arts collections, multimedia presentations, products manufactured in New Haven, and family treasures contributed by neighborhood residents and local historical societies. Lead support for the exhibition has been provided by Connecticut Humanities.
January through May 31, 2014
Tuesday through Friday: 10 am to 5 pm
Saturday: 12 noon to 5 pm.
Cost: open free of charge to the public every first Sunday of the month
For Info Call: 203-562-4183
About the New Haven Museum
The New Haven Museum, founded in 1862 as the New Haven Colony Historical Society, is located in downtown New Haven at 114 Whitney Avenue. The Museum is currently celebrating 150 years of collecting, preserving and interpreting the history and heritage of Greater New Haven. Through its collections, exhibitions, programs and outreach, the Museum brings 375 years of New Haven history to life.