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Erin's Inheritance: Irish-American Children, Ethnic Identity, and the Meaning of Being Irish, 1845-1890 Open Access

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This dissertation explores the concerns and discussions about lessons of Irish identity for the children of Irish immigrants in mid to late nineteenth-century New York and New England. The author argues that there were recurrent efforts to maintain Irish identity by ensuring the young would understand their Irish and Catholic heritage and that adults often based this identity on the themes of Irish nationalism. Yet Irish-Americans understood that they had to demonstrate Irish loyalty to the United States, so they attempted to blend Irish and American identities in their progeny, articulating an early vision of cultural pluralism for American society. This research contributes to understandings of the invention of ethnicity and ethnic endurance in the United States and how immigrants use conceptions of the meaning of "American" with their national backgrounds as they create identities for their descendants. This dissertation also illuminates the importance of children and ideas about childhood to the development of ethnicity in the United States. But it also has broader meanings for the ways in which religion, ethnicity, and nationality affect the transition of immigrant progeny from the world of their parents to that of the United States and how the children of immigrants eventually become American ethnic groups.

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