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Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


Graduate School


Contemporary conventional wisdom suggests that a radical change in environment produces a variety of conflicts for an individual’s perception of the world. Certain geographical, social or cultural environments are seen as either supporting or threatening corresponding value systems and life-styles, and alteration of one’s environment, such as moving to the suburbs, integrating schools, etc., is often sought as a reinforcement for a particular way of life. Correspondingly, value changes seen as undesirable are frequently attributed to environmental change, such as moving to the big city, ghettoization, etc. Indeed, environmental change itself, whatever its substance or direction, is usually assumed to produce some impact on the outlook and values of a person undergoing such change. This study seeks to examine such assumptions with reference to a group which underwent dramatic environmental and occupational change: Irish women immigrants employed in factories in the United States, 1870-1914.

Did these Irish immigrant women who labored in factories retain their traditional set of personal values once they reached the highly industrial urban scene of the factory? Or did these values disintegrate under the strain of change? Did these women develop a new set of values? Or did their traditional values stretch to encompass the new demands of city and factory, retaining their initial character, but regenerating deep unresolved tensions? Close examination will point up some important aspects of personal adaptation to historical upheaval and perhaps suggest a legacy.