Star of the Sea : A Postcolonial/Postmodern Voyage into the Irish Famine
This path was created by Derek James Rachel. The last update was by Amanda Lundeen.
Boston: The Cradle of Emigrant Liberty
1847 was one of the busiest years when it came to emigration, and this was noticed through the 37,000 immigrants received by Boston and thereby “increasing its population by one third, and straining its housing, medical and charitable resources to breaking point” (Gray, The Irish Famine 109). This strain on the Boston resources severely affected the view on the arrival of Irish emigrants. While the city was prepared to receive this large number of immigrants, they were not fully prepared for this large wave. Therefore, their resources were partly depleted and they had to find different ways of supporting the immigrants.
With the large wave of immigrants, there were not enough jobs available in Boston, and that caused problems for the Irish. Many of the emigrants were already weak from being exposed to starvation and disease, but they still needed jobs in order to be able to eat. Because Boston’s seaport resources were being strained by the overflow of immigrants, “the Famine Irish were disproportionately concentrated in the lowest-paid, least-skilled, and most insecure and dangerous jobs” (Miller, “Emigration” 224). These jobs were all the Irish could get, and therefore they were forced to accept anything to put food on the table. In most cases, at least it was better than what they had experienced in Ireland.
Due to the difficulty in finding jobs and substandard housing with sanitation, diseases greatly spread through the streets of Boston. Most people drifted towards the unsanitary slums to escape life on the port, but ended up living in horrible health conditions. However, in the slums, the child mortality became an even bigger problem. According to Helen Litton, 61 percent of children died during this time, and this became even worse the more immigrants arrived (108). These numbers are concerning because the Irish immigrants came to places like Boston to save their family and escape the famine. However, when people were in such close proximity to each other, they could not escape the possibility of death. Despite these facts, cities like Boston became a place where the Irish could experience a life away from famine, in a city known as “the cradle of liberty”.
Gray, Peter. The Irish Famine. New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc. Publishers, 2995. Print.
Laxton, Edward. The Famine Ships: The Irish Exodus to America. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996. Print.
Litton, Helen. The Irish Famine: An Illustrated History. Dublin: Wolfhound Press, 1994. Print.
Miller, Kerby A. “Emigration to North America in the Era of the Great Famine, 1845-55.” Atlas of the Great Irish Famine. Ed. John Crowley, William J. Smyth, and Mike Murphy. New York: New York University Press, 2012. Print.