Timothy J. Meagher
Like many American cities, Worcester, Massachusetts, is an enclave of cultural tradition and ethnic pride. Through the intensive analysis of this Irish American community at the turn of the twentieth century, Timothy Meagher reveals how an ethnic group can endure and yet change when its first American-born generation takes control of its destiny.
Meagher traces the chaotic and complicated passage of Irish Americans from their status as isolated immigrants, through accommodation in the 1880s and ethnocentric belligerence in the 1890s, to leadership of a pan-ethnic American Catholic people in the early twentieth century. He shows how these shifts resulted from both the initiatives of a new generation and changing relations with Yankee and ethnic neighbors, examining along the way such topics as women’s prominence in the local nationalist movement, marriage patterns among the second generation, and cross-party coalitions that Irish Democrats forged with Yankee Republicans.
A fourth-generation Worcester native, Meagher examines nearly every aspect of Irish American life in his city to discover how his family and others like them attempted to resolve the dilemma of identity. He analyzes the changing definitions of identities and boundaries over a crucial forty-year period and shows how the rise of a new generation to community leadership brought about a quiet but powerful revolution in people’s everyday lives.
_Inventing Irish America _ is the only book to focus on the cultural transition of Irish Americans from one generation to the next and offers readers new insight into the creation of their identity. By studying one community in generational transition, it sheds new light on all places where ethnic and racial groups struggle to maintain their identities by reinventing themselves through time.
“Arguably one of the most important case studies since Oscar Handlin’s Boston’s Immigrants, 1790-1865…. [T]his book is notable for masterfully bringing to bear generational and sociological models of immigrant assimilation and ethnic group formation to illuminate the concrete historical experience of the Irish in a middling but representative Massachusetts city. Meagher breaks new ground by charting the complex interation between this generational transition and the intergroup struggles for power, resources, and status that shaped and reshaped Irish-American identity.” — American Historical Review
“Timothy J. Meagher, director of Catholic University’s Center for Irish Studies, describes his native Worcester through a rich blend of scholarship and personal experience, within the larger context of Irish and Irish American history. Meagher does a fine job of combining detailed, thoughtful analysis with pertinent illustrations from those who participated in this complex story. [T]he book will certainly be interesting and accessible to others with interest in Irish and Irish American culture. In conveying a multifaceted analysis, Meagher has brought a community to life.” — History: Review of New Books
“This well-written and researched book is best suited to academic libraries but would be appropriate for public libraries with strong Irish constituents.” — Library Journal
“When Timothy J. Meagher visits St. John’s Cemetery in south Worcester, he said he feels like he’s ‘walking among friends,’ such as Monsignor Thomas Griffin and former Worcester Mayor Peter Sullivan. Mr. Meagher never met Monsignor Griffin or Mr. Sullivan, but you’d never know that flipping through the Worcester native’s new book.” — Worcester Telegram & Gazette
“[A]n appealing text.” — Choice
“Timothy Meagher’s Inventing Irish America is a rare gem of a book, brilliant in both conception and execution. It will force every student of Irish immigration and ethnicity to challenge their old assumptions and recast significant aspects of their stories. By placing deserved emphasis on second and subsequent generations and by showing the multiple and complex negotiations that accompanied the invention (and re-invention) of Irish-Americanism, Meagher has advanced our understanding not just of the Irish but of every American immigrant group. This is an important and path-breaking study.” —David M. Emmons, Professor of History, University of Montana
“This is one of the most important studies of Irish America in years. The richness of detail and its provocative interpretation make it required reading for anyone interested in American history. Meagher’s analysis of the changes that reshaped the identity of the Worcester Irish is brilliant.” —Jay P. Dolan, Professor of History, University of Notre Dame
“How did Irish immigrants become Irish Americans? No one has answered that question with more subtlety and intelligence than Timothy Meagher in his pathbreaking study of Inventing Irish America. No one else has painted such a wide ranging and carefully shaded portrait of an Irish-American community—from politics to parades, schools to saloons, churches to clubs, holidays to hospitals. Beautifully written and deeply researched, Inventing Irish America will become an instant classic in immigration history.” —Roy Rosenzweig, CAS Distinguished Professor of History, George Mason University
“Timothy Meagher knows the world of the Irish of Worcester. His work is extensive and comprehensive and will find its place among the roster of the very best studies on immigrant communities in America. Meagher understands the complexities in their lives and the evolutionary nature of their communities. His writing is authoritative, complex, focused and judicious, and his work is a must read for anyone interested in Irish America.” —Brian C. Mitchell, President, Washington and Jefferson College
“[This] is an ambitious study, but Meagher maintains steady control of his material—which includes not just a wealth of primary materials on all phases of Irish life in Worchester, but also evidence from a wide range of other communities studies. Meagher’s prose is clear and attractive; his judgments are balanced and temperate; his authorial presence engaging—genial and knowing, at times humorous, but never frivolous or unfair. This is an important book, not just in Irish studies but in American social history more generally.” —Philip Gleason, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Notre Dame
“Meagher’s study of how Irish ethnic identity developed over time, in response to changes in Worcester’s Irish community and in its environment alike, is stunning in both its breadth and depth—in its complexity, subtlety, and richness of detail. I am especially impressed by Dr. Meagher’s description and analysis of the second, American-born generation of Worcester Irish. To my knowlege, no scholar has treated a second-generation immigrant group—much less the American-born Irish—as successfully.” —Kerby Miller, Professor of History, University of Missouri-Columbia
Winner of the 2001 James Donnelly Sr. Prize for the Best Book in Irish and Irish American History from the American Conference for Irish Studies