Irish Girls in San Francisco

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XIII (9) start of chapter

Of the Irish girls in America I have spoken elsewhere; but any notice of the race in San Francisco, in which special mention of the Irish girls of that city was not made, would be most incomplete. They form a considerable and valuable portion of its population, and are deservedly esteemed by all classes of its citizens. They are industrious, intelligent, faithful, generous, high-spirited, and intensely devoted to their religion, of which they are the proudest ornaments and best examples. So justly esteemed are these Irish girls for purity and honour, that some 2,000 of them have been well married—fully half of that number to men of substance and good position. It may be remarked that a considerable number of them had been tenderly reared at home, where they received a fair education; but, driven by circumstances to emigrate, they were of necessity obliged to accept even the humblest situations in a foreign land. They soon, however, rose above the lowly condition which they dignified by their intelligence and worth, and found in an honourable marriage ample compensation for all their former trials.

It is estimated that seventy-five per cent, of the Irish girls in domestic employment in San Francisco can read fairly, while more than fifty per cent. can both write and read well. The rate of wages for domestic employment ranges from 20 to 40 dollars a month. The average would come to 60l. a year. Out of this income they save a certain portion, indulge their Celtic love of finery, gratify their charitable and religious instincts by generous contributions to church, to convent, to orphanage, and to asylum; and the balance is devoted to the twofold purpose, with them almost equally sacred—to assist their parents or aged relatives in the old country, or bring out a brother or a sister to their adopted home. It is calculated by those who have every means of ascertaining the fact, that the Irish girls employed in San Francisco annually remit to Ireland, for the purposes stated, the sum of 270,000 dollars! What eulogium can equal the mere mention of this fact?

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America