Catholicism was a major force in Irish culture and subsequently Irish-American culture. Some aspects of Catholicism that are particularly relevant to the formation of Irish-American identity are:
The emphasis on the family, which was considered the “social and moral
center of the community” (McKenzie). The family was the patriarchal family structure in which the father is at the top of the hierarchy within the family (McKenzie). This results in women be made subservient to men as well. Children were also viewed as the primary purpose and goal of marriage, so using birth control is not allowed (McKenzie).
The ban on homosexuality, within Catholicism, homosexuality was considered an “objective disorder” and that homosexual behavior was “sinful” (McKenzie). This led to the Catholic church opposing same-sex marriage (McKenzie). In addition to that as previously mentioned in Catholicism, the purpose of the family structure was to produce children so any sexual practice that would not result in children and was considered outside the norm was frowned upon, and homosexuality fits into that category.
McKenzie, John L, Martin E. Marty and Others. “Roman Catholicism.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Last updated December 11, 2018.https://www.britannica.com/topic/Roman-Catholicism.
“Saint Patrick Front1.” Wikimedia Commons. Last updated December 9, 2011. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Saint_Patrick_front1.jpg
Irish people have been immigrating to America since the colonial period (Hershkowitz 11). However, most of these immigrants were Protestant, from the Northern parts of Ireland and were primarily wealthier merchant individuals (Hershkowitz 11: Moss 126). Because of this, these Irish immigrants had no problem assimilating into the greater American society (Moss 126).
During the early 1820s through the early 1830s, there was an increase in Irish immigration and it continued to increase throughout the 1830s and 1840s because of the Irish Potato Famine (Anbinder 117, 125). These Irish immigrants were primarily from the South and West of Ireland and were Catholic causing Irish Catholics to outnumber Irish Protestants in America (Anbinder 125). Due to their Catholicism and their lower class, these Irish immigrants were unable to assimilate as the previous ones had, and thus were subjected to discrimination, since they were viewed negatively by American society.
The discrimination was why it became necessary for people to attempt to create a cohesive Irish-American identity through the formation of gangs and cultural events like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Anbinder, Tyler. City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York. Boston: Mariner Books Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.
Hershowitz, Leo. “Overview: The Irish and the Emerging City: Settling to 1844.” In The New York Irish. Edited by Ronald H. Bayor and Timothy J. Meagher. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996: 11-34.
Moss, Kenneth. “St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations and the Formation of Irish-American Identity, 1845-1875.” Journal of Social History 29, no. 1 (Autumn 1995): 125-148.
Laird, Rachel. “Irish Immigrants Lives Laid Out at New York Tenement Museum.” IrishCentral. Last updated June 25, 2018. https://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/irish-immigrants-new-york-tenement-museum
Hi, welcome to the about us page! We are 4 undergraduates at SUNY Geneseo currently taking an Irish Studies course on landscape and memory. Allow us to tell you a bit more about ourselves.
Rebecca Hagan is a senior History major. She did her research on the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and how who is and is not allowed to march in the parade is setting a boundary of who can and cannot be Irish-American. Specifically, she looked at the fight for LGBT Irish groups to be allowed to march in New York St. Patrick’s Day parades.
Hannah Laneuville is a freshman English major. She chose to research Irish-American gang life after stumbling across a series on Netflix titled The Irish Mob. This documentary piqued her interest by telling the story of the Irish Mafia, how it arose, changed, and disbanded. Their way of life was interesting to her so she decided to further research the topic and form her own opinions on their history. Hemingway Lovullo is a freshman English major. She became interested in Irish gang life after watching Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York movie–specifically, how these gangs were formed, and how they interacted with one another.
Sam Silver is a senior Political Science major. In enjoying learning about many aspects of different mobs – specifically, those of Irish and Italian descent – he chose to further look into how Patriarchy affects these gangs under the identity of Irish-American immigrants.
We found that a common thread throughout all of our research was the formation of Irish-American identity and that is why we chose to make this site based around that subject matter.
Since Catholicism is an important aspect of Irish-American identity there is a tension between being Irish-American and being LGBT, since Catholicism is against homosexuality. The Chicago St. Patricks Day parade, the second largest, LGBT groups were allowed to march in the 1990s (Compton). However, change came less easy in other major St. Patrick’s Day Parades, like the one in New York City. In terms of the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade, the largest in the country, the Ancient Order of the Hibernians who sponsor the parade received an application from the Irish Gay and Lesbian Organization to participate in the 1991 St. Patrick’s Day Parade (Marston). This application was denied resulting in a years-long battle over whether or not Irish LGBT groups would be allowed to march in the parade under their own banner. This battle resulted in multiple court cases, and LGBT people being arrested at almost every New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade until the ban was lifted (Marston).
However, the situation for LGBT Irish-Americans is improving. In 2015 Ireland became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage via popular vote (Compton). In addition to that, that same year New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade allowed their first LGBT organization to march in the parade, Out@NBCUniversal, this lifted the ban on LGBT groups marching in the parade (Schlossberg).
Compton, Julie. “Fighting Irish: Battle for LGBTQ Inclusion in St. Patrick’s Day Parades Continues.” NBC News. Last updated March 13, 2018. https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/fighting-irish-battle-lgbtq-inclusion-st-patrick-s-day-parades-n856181.
Marston, Sallie A. “Making Difference: Conflict Over Irish Identity in the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.” Political Geography 21. no. 3. March 2002. Accessed November 10, 2018. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0962629801000518
Schlossberg, Tatiana. “St. Patrick’s Day Parade Includes First Gay Group, But Dismay Remains.” New York Times. March 17, 2015.
“Irish LGBT Rainbow Flag.” Wikimedia Commons. Last updated February 1, 2012. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Irish_LGBT_rainbow_flag.png
The celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in America started in the 1830s and 1840s, due to the influx of Irish immigrants due to the Potato Famine. In Ireland St. Patrick’s day was celebrated as a “non-festive holy day of obligation” (Moss 126). The Ancient Order of the Hibernians, an Irish Catholic charitable society, started organizing the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade in the 1830s (Marston). The parade and the general celebration of St. Patrick’s day was used as a way to celebrate Irish-American identity. At one point it was even the most popular ethnic celebration in America and helped develop how other people viewed Irish Americans.
Due to how Irish identity is constructed through the St. Patrick’s Day parade, who is allowed to participate acts a boundary of who can be Irish-American. Patriarchy being a component of Irish-American identity resulted in women not being able to hold leadership positions including grand marshall of the St. Patrick’s Day parade until 1989, when Dorothy Hayden Cudany host of the “Irish Memories” radio program won the nomination (Barron). This ended a 229-year ban on women being the grand marshall of the New York City parade(Barron). Also due to the importance of Catholicism, there has historically and today been a struggle over allowing LGBT groups to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Barron, James. “After 229 Years, Irishwoman to lead Parade.” New York Times. February 1, 1989.
Marston, Sallie A.“Making Difference: Conflict Over Irish Identity in the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.” Political Geography 21. no. 3 (March 2002). Accessed November 10, 2018. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0962629801000518
Moss, Kenneth. “St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations and the Formation of Irish-American Identity, 1845-1875.” Journal of Social History 29. No. 1. Autumn 1995: 125-148.
“Ancient Order of the Hibernians.” Wikimedia Commons. Last updated November 2, 2011. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ancient_Order_of_Hibernians.jpg
“New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade DVIDS261036.” Wikimedia Commons. Last updated March 18, 2018. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:New_York_City_St._Patrick%27s_Day_Parade_DVIDS261036.jpg