Many modern Irish Pittsburghers can trace their roots to immigrants fleeing an Ireland devastated by the Great Potato Famine of the mid-1800s. They migrated to Pittsburgh, a booming industrial town, and worked in the iron and steel mills, the mines, and the railroads. Irish women became domestic servants in such large numbers that “Bridget the Maid” was a stock character on stage and later in films.
The immigrants settled in neighborhoods such as the Point, the Hill District, Homewood, and the North Side. Fighting anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sentiments, they paved the way for their children who would dominate municipal politics and the Catholic Church and rise to surprising heights in sports, entertainment, and business.
Gov. David L. Lawrence, dancer Gene Kelly, and boxing champion Billy Conn were three of these Irish Pittsburgh groundbreakers. Their success echoed the smaller, but equally significant, success of ordinary Pittsburghers who rose from poverty to middle class, from shantytown to “lace curtain” respectability in the neighborhoods and later in the suburbs of the city.
Highlights of Irish Pittsburgh include:
• The history traces Irish lives from starvation-level poverty in the 19th century to middle-class prosperity in the 20th.
• Irish domination of the Catholic Church is highlighted as is the Church’s role in the survival of the Irish immigrants.
Available at area bookstores, independent retailers, and online retailers, or through Arcadia Publishing at (888)-313-2665 or online.
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