“Irish Lives in America” by Liz Evers and Knife Gallagher is the December pick for the Central Irish Book Club.
Each month we’ll pick a new Irish book or a great book by an Irish author and celebrate the incredible ability of the Irish to tell a good story for the Central Irish Book Club.
During the month of December, we will be reading “Irish Life in America” edited by Liz Evers and Knife Gallagher and published by the Royal Irish Academy (RIA). The new title contains an introduction by Dan Mulhall, Ireland’s ambassador to the United States.
“Irish Lives in America” was launched during a special event on November 24 by Irishman Neville Isdell, former CEO of Coca-Cola. The event included a panel discussion entitled “Irish Lives in America: Underdogs or Gentlemen?” Headed by Patrick Geojegan and featuring Miriam Nehan Gray, Diane Negra, Neville Esdale and Liz Evers. You can watch the launch event, hosted by EPIC at the Irish Immigration Museum, here:
Summary of “Irish Lives in America” by Liz Evers and Nyaf Gallagher
Irish Lives in America documents fifty Irish people mentioned in the Dictionary of Irish Biography who left an indelible mark on American society, politics, and culture.
A new collection of biographical essays, Irish Lives in America, spans 300 years of history and seeks to illustrate the breadth of the Irish experience and its impact on American culture, politics, and society.
The 50 biographies featured in “Irish Lives in America” include political figures, artists, artists, soldiers, slave owners, and abolitionists. These range from the Scouts who opened the Western Frontier to the religious who established congregations across the country and from those who spent their lives fighting for workers’ rights to the giants of industry who profited from the work of others to become the country’s first millionaires.
- Mary Jemison (1743? – 1833), who joined the Seneca tribe and whose autobiography provides one of the few reliable accounts of the impact of colonial expansion on the Native American population.
- John Wallace Crawford (1847-1917), a frontier scout, writer, and artist from Donegal helped create the legend of the Wild West hero.
Annie Moore (1874-1924), the first immigrant to land on Ellis Island. It became a symbol not only for Irish immigrants, but for everyone who landed there. Subject to a case of historical misidentification, it was recently discovered that Annie’s real experience fell short of the American Dream.
- Belinda Mulroney (1872-1967), serial entrepreneur, who had a fortune of $1 million at its peak and was declared the richest woman in Klondike
- Paul O’Dower 1907-1998, described as “the conscience of New York politics,” was one of America’s leading civil liberties and civil rights attorneys from the 1940s to the 1970s.
James Hoban (circa 1762–1831), the architect who designed the first residence of US President George Washington, the White House, as well as the State Department and War Department offices.
- John Mulvaney (1844–1906), who painted the famous “Last Custer Rally,” a hugely popular patriotic painting that reimagined shameful defeat as a triumph of resolve and spirit.
Margaret Maher (1845-1924), maid and friend of Emily Dickinson’s family, credited with preserving Dickinson’s poetry.
A new biography was commissioned specifically for the writers:
Maureen O’Hara (1920-2015), Hollywood star known for her roles in Big-Budget Snipers and John Ford Pictures.
Albert Kasher (1834-1915), who was born a female to a poor family in Louth and went to America in search of a better life. He joined the union army and served with distinction in the Civil War.
Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States Daniel Mulhall on the topic “Irish Lives in America”
It is fitting that this book, with its stories of the first generation of Irish immigrants who made their mark on America, appears at a time when proud Irish American President Joe Biden, ascended to the highest office in the country. He is the 23rd person of Irish descent to occupy the White House, a building designed by Irish architect James Hoban.
The fifty biographies collected here represent large numbers of Irish immigrants whose contributions to America were less well known, but no less significant. Their grandchildren, who now number thirty-five million, are present in every walk of American life.
Editors should be commended for bringing to light the lesser known aspects of the story.
As I wrote this article as the coronavirus pandemic continued to spread across America and around the world, I had the pleasure of remembering the contribution of Irish immigrants to the field of medicine, represented here by Gertrude Brice Kelly, one of the first female surgeons in New York who was also a staunch advocate of independence Ireland and Cumann na mBan president in New York, and Limerick woman Mary O’Connell, described as American Florence Nightingale. It’s also time to remember that Irish immigrant John Crawford of County Antrim, was one of the first doctors to introduce the smallpox vaccine in America.
Although their descendants are proudly and proudly American, they have consistently shown an affinity and affection for Ireland. This remains an invaluable asset to our country to this day. This collection sheds light on the fascinating history of Irish America, a community that, in various ways, has played its part in shaping America and Ireland.
About Editors Liz Evers and Niav Gallagher
Liz Evers is a writer and editor who has worked in the UK and Ireland publishing industry for many years and is the author of many popular reference books on diverse topics, from Shakespeare to horology. Graduated from University College Dublin (BA in English) and Dublin City University (MA in Film). She joined the Irish Biography Dictionary as researcher and project copy editor in 2018.
Niav Gallagher is a medieval historian, specializing in the links between religion and politics in the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Among other roles, she has worked as a lecturer and researcher for the genealogical and history research firm Eneclann, on several collaborative projects, including the National Archives Millennium Project and the Irish Battlefields Project. Nayaf is a graduate of University College Dublin (MSc) and Trinity College Dublin (PhD). She joined the Irish Biography Dictionary as a researcher in 2018.
“Irish Lives in America” is available for purchase directly from the Royal Irish Academy, from the Independent Publishers Group, as well as other outlets.
You can find out more about the Royal Irish Academy on its website, Facebook and Twitter pages.
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