As an immigrant from Ireland herself, Hood grad student Janet Kalinowski found the lives of early Irish women immigrants fascinating—so fascinating that she wanted to make their stories the subject of her Humanities thesis.
“It couldn’t be pigeon-holed as history, and it was very broad at the beginning,” said Ms. Kalinowski. “But the faculty was very enthusiastic. They helped me find a focus and encouraged a cross-disciplinary approach with both the history and English departments.”
The result was Hope on this Side of the Grave: Irish Women Immigrants in America 1880-1910, research for which took Ms. Kalinowsi frequently to libraries and historical societies in Boston and New York City. A travel grant from Hood helped foot bills for fuel and train tickets, and family in both cities provided a roof over her head.
Ms. Kalinowski learned that many Irish immigrants of the period came as single women, in search of “hope in this life rather than in death. America was that hope.” To coin the words of Irish bard Seamus Heaney in his poem The Cure of Troy, they came despite history’s admonishment not to “hope on this side of the grave” and with the belief that a “further shore” was reachable.
For many of these women, it was reachable, Ms. Kalinowski discovered. “They took jobs as domestic servants, where they observed middle-class life up close. They married later, and their children became nurses, doctors, teachers, policemen, firemen and office clerks—jobs that had cachet at the time.”
Ms. Kalinowsky graduated in September with an M.A. in Humanities, a degree that will enable her to advance in the library world. She is currently a substitute librarian for the Frederick County Public Libraries and hopes someday to write for Irish-American organizations and publications.