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Irish Contributions to the American Culture

Despite the competition for jobs, many Irish immigrants supported and became leaders of union efforts, perhaps because they so well understood the power of organizing to meet needs. For instance, Mary Harris, later known as Mother Jones, committed more than fifty years of her life to unionizing workers in various occupations throughout the country. Her dedicated effort resulted in arrests, personal attacks, and many hardships but she also earned audiences with United States presidents from McKinley to Coolidge.

New Deal appointments a decade later enabled Irish politicians to gain the national spotlight through judgeships and other federal positions. These appointments served as precursors to the future success of Irish-American elected leaders such as Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and President John F. Kennedy.

The great number of Irish who entered the United States from the sixteenth to twentieth centuries were changed by America, just as they changed this nation. They achieved lives that would not have been possible in Ireland, supporting their families and bringing a better life to their fellow Irish in the United States and in Ireland.

In turn these immigrants contributed to the "American culture" in many ways. They became political and religious leaders. They used their drive and charm (and their "way with words") to achieve special success in journalism, entertainment and sports. Popular perceptions of the fierce Irish temper, introduced such terms as "Paddy Wagon," "Donnybrook" and "Fighting Irish" to the American language. Among the early immigrants to the United States, the Irish are now assimilated in all aspects of this nation, but they still retain pride and identity in their Irish heritage.

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