Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July

There is supposed to be a picture here.  Oh well.  I'll work on it later.

In 1890, one of my great grandmothers got off of this ship in New York City.  There was no Ellis Island for her to go through.  She was met by a porter named Mr. Murphy, who was reportedly "the blackest Irishman she had ever seen."  She came alone, a young woman from Ireland looking for a place to live her life.  She moved to Charleston, SC, where she found a job as a maid.  The family story (for what it's worth) is that she changed her name from Bridget to Annie because people made fun of Irish maids named Bridget.

In 1894, another of my great grandmothers traveled from a very small town on Prince Edward Island to another small town called Stow, Massachusetts.  She too was a young woman looking to make a life for herself.  Her brother in law, a minister in Canada, arranged for work in the US for young, unmarried women.  She worked as a maid in the house of a widower with a small child.  She later became a bookkeeper.

I'm not sure what they thought their lives would be like in the United States.  I know they expected to work hard, and they did.  I suppose they expected to make friends, and I think they did.  Both women worked for several years before eventually marrying and having children.  Their children gave birth to my parents, and for that I am greatful.

When they came to the United States, they came for economic opportunity, although it's unlikely either of them used those words.  They came to work.   Blanche Eleanor may or may not have felt welcome among the descendants of Puritans, but I don't know. She brought the quiet strength of a people who had been chased out of France, Germany, Switzerland, and other parts of Europe, brought to Prince Edward Island as Foreign Protestants to settle an English land few Englishmen wanted to colonize.   And although people made fun of Irish maids named Bridget and there would have been plenty of signs saying "NINA" --- no Irish need apply, it seems that Annie found her place in the thriving Catholic community in Charleston.

Whatever they felt when they arrived, they stayed and strived and, if I do say so myself, made wonderful contributions to this wonderful country.

Thank God for America, and Thank God for our Immigrant Ancestors.