Inventing Irish America
Generation, Class, and Ethnic Identity in a New England City, 1880-1928
546 pages, 6.00 x 9.00
Paperback | 9780268031541 | April 2001
Hardcover | 9780268031534 | April 2001
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 focuses 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.
Timothy J. Meagher is associate professor of history and university archivist at Catholic University of America. He is the author of A Guide to Irish American History, and co-editor, with Ronald H. Bayor, of The New York Irish, winner of the James Donnelly Sr. Prize from the American Conference for Irish Studies.
“Timothy Meagher’s Inventing Irish America places the construction of ethnic identity in a specific historical context. It does so superbly, weaving a sophisticated treatment of the evolution of Irish American life into a rich account of Worcester, Massachusetts, from 1880 to 1928. The result is a major contribution to American ethnic history and an excellent example of the importance of carefully grounded historical analysis for understanding social group formation.” —The Journal of American History