Posted in Posts and podcasts

The tide of emigration – 1897

New Zealand Tablet 6th August, 1897 (abridged)

Between the showers Photo: EO'D
Between the showers
Photo: EO’D

The correspondent of an Irish-American exchange writing from New York says: From Ireland the tide of emigration has again set toward our shores. At Ellis Island the other day there passed through the Gate of Freedom, as the exit of the little picketed lane is called, 723 Irish lassies— the best clothed, neatest and most cheerful immigrants this country has seen for years. They ranged in age from 18 to 25 and without exception, passed every requirement as to morality and cleanliness, and satisfied the commissioners that there was no danger of their becoming charges on the public for future support.

Sixty-five per cent of the entire number were what is known as “pre-paid”‘ passengers. Their tickets had been sent them from this side. Two hundred and fifty of them will go into domestic service in the metropolitan district. Nearly three hundred went to Boston, The others are scheduled for destinations in the Middle and Western States.

Last month there were to come more than 1,000 other girls from Irish villages. The cause for this invasion is the demand for Irish girls for housemaids. The Labour Employment Bureau can place more than 2,000 of proper character and fitness. The scene on Ellis Island before they were put on board the ferries was strongly suggestive of a country fair. About a thousand of their friends, brothers and sisters of some and sweethearts and friends of others had all got permission to greet them. They just swarmed over the island. Other immigrants looked on in wonder, and listened to the rare, rich brogue which filled the air. The girls had presents of blackthorns for their, brothers and lovers and bits of lace or knittings of woollen for their sisters and long before the first hundred had passed inspection each one was wearing some taken from the other.

The immigrants all had pocket money, and they who had least had friends in waiting. They had substantial wardrobes, too, some in woollen chests, and some in large tin boxes that were written all over with the names and addresses of their owners.

When they got on the mainland and saw the elevated trains, the lovely park, the tall buildings and the crowds rushing for the ferries and heard the din of traffic, these girls from the little inland villages stood in amazement and gossiped among themselves as to what kind of a place New York must be and how soon they would be swallowed up and lost in the hundreds of thousands. They were given their first lesson in the immensity of metropolitan life, and shrank off with their friends, glad not to be alone. Those whose friends had not called for them up to sundown were cared for in the Mission of the Holy Rosary. Deputy Commissioner M’Sweeney, of the Immigration Bureau, said that this season would see ten thousand Irish girls landed in this city.

All told there were fourteen hundred immigrants landed at the island the other day.



B.A., M.A.(Archaeology); Regional Tour Guide; Dip. Radio Media Tech; H.Dip. Computer Science.

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