During the Great Hunger of 1845 – 1851, approximately one million Irish men, women and children left Ireland, either voluntarily or through forced emigration. Of course, in the mid 1800s, communication back home was not as easy as it is in our day: no Zoom, no FaceTime, no messaging, no phone calls. The emigrants, often homesick and wanting to stay in touch with their loved ones, used the postal system to stay in touch. The Irish in America (and specifically Irish women) became prolific letter writers. The letters contained updates from their new homes, inquiries as to what was happening in Ireland, and very importantly, funds to support those who remained behind.
Mavis McGetrick discusses the sheer volume of letters sent from America and the impact of the financial support these women provided to their families back home. Carolyn Reeves sings poignant Irish ballads to accompany the lecture.