Immigrant Women: Nowhere at Home & Women’s Place in the Irish Diaspora

For our History 297 Class, we had to read Immigrant Women: Nowhere at Home? by Donna Gabaccia. Throughout the article, Gabaccia expresses her discontent with the state of the research on women in history. More specifically, she describes the problem with the studies on women in the history of immigration. The problem being the detachment from studying women in the history of immigration as being research on the history of immigration rather than women’s history.  Gabaccia gives the example of Louise Tilly and Joan Scott’s Women, Work and Family, which was praised by ethnic historians but criticized by women’s studies.  During this time, scholars in women’s studies made the argument that became popular in the 70’s, the idea that migrant families were “authoritarian (and) disorganized.” Immigrant historians, however, argue that had migrant society truly held them back, then ethnic identities would never had survived as long as they did. For this reason, Gabaccia argues, immigrant historians see familial solidarity in a positive light.  Gabbaccia finishes the article by stating that, “unless feminist theorists are willing to dismiss massive evidence”, then they will have to accept that one of the things immigrant women viewed in a positive light was their family.


We also had to read Women’s Place in the History of Irish Diaspora by Janet Nolan. In this, Nolan asserts the idea that there were a number of Irish immigrants to the U.S. who came here, not only without their families, but also to gain financial independence from their families. Nolan also made reference to how women are now being treated more equally in the lens of history due to the increased belief that leaving them out would leave out truths that show what that time was actually like. Since the mid-2000’s, works have come out to illustrate the importance of women in Ireland during the age of immigration in religious, economic, and cultural aspects. For this reason, Nolan argues, it is imperative that women be returned to historical record.

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