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What Types of Jobs Did Irish Immigrants Get?

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Ireland’s potato famine of 1845 launched a wave of immigration across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States. As Ireland was primarily rural, most were unprepared for the industrialized cities they were to call home, so high-paying jobs were rare. The immigrants often took jobs that others did not want to perform. The Irish immigrants wanted what every American wanted, which was to live the American dream of peace and prosperity. About 4.5 million Irish arrived in America between 1820 and 1930.

Domestic Jobs

Female Irish immigrants took on jobs such as chambermaids, cooks and running errands for rich city dwellers. If the rich people in the city did not have a black servant, they often had an Irish one. Irish women often saved what little money they received from these jobs to donate to the Church or send home to relatives. Irish women were considered good servants by the rich because they were hard workers who would not require a lot of pay.

Servant Jobs

Irish men often became man servants and personally cared for the man of the house or the horses in the stables. The Irish men also worked as kitchen staff, gardeners, horse groomers, stable muckers and caring for animals. The men would work long, hard hours doing jobs for less pay than other city residents.

Railroad Jobs

Irish men helped to build the railroad and would go away from family and friends to construct the railroads in the west. They would send their money home to the families that live in the east or overseas in Ireland. The Irish men would stick to themselves in the railroad camps and did not often mingle with others of different nationality.

Bridges and Construction

The Irish often worked dangerous and low paying jobs creating roads and bridges across the country. The Irish workers would follow the construction jobs across the country, and they would work long hours in unsanitary and unsafe conditions. Many Irish Men would often work jobs that even black slaves were not allowed to work, because the black slaves were considered valuable property. Irish men were not valued as property and allowed to perform more dangerous tasks. The families would stay in cities or follow the men as they worked.


Jeanne Dober has been a professional writer since 2007. She ghostwrites for private clients creating Web articles and copy writing projects and also writes short fiction stories. Dober's articles specialize in animals, health care, telephones, crafts and business topics. She graduate from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and a minor in English.

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