Michigan State University

Immigrants

The collection does not contain much on the subject of immigration. However, The Transplanted Shamrock; or the Way to Win an Irish Heart (1860) is a fascinating story of converting an Irish Catholic immigrant servant girl to the Protestantism of Boston, and it may be supposed that this was one response to the waves of Irish immigration in the 1850s. The frontispiece shows the girl, Nelly, being admitted into a Boston household with the Old North Church in the background, a symbol of the religious terms on which Nelly will be assimilated. "We are sthrangers in a sthrange land, ma'm," the story begins. It is an attempt to represent the Irish brogue, and just as it will appear strange to the reader, it signals that we are seeing the Irish through the Protestant evangelical eyes of the American Tract Society. The story of Nelly's conversion reveals the doctrinal impasse between Protestant and Catholic and the class antagonisms that a servant of a different faith might foster in the household. In its zeal to convert, in a sense, the story is a record of religious intolerance, couched in the language of compassion. Nelly is reasoned into Protestantism, conversion being the only form of assimilation possible, then Nelly forgives her one-time Protestant antagonists. This is by no means an accurate or representative picture of the Boston Irish (though it may reflect some experience) but it is a revealing document of evangelical psychology.

— Stephen Rachman, Department of English, Michigan State University

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