"A Tempestuous Voyage at Sea and a Fatiguing One by Land": Ulsterwomen in Philadelphia, 1783-1812
Daniel K Richter
United States History
This thesis examines the lives of women who came from the north of Ireland, the area traditionally known as Ulster, and settled in the city of Philadelphia between the end of the American Revolution and the beginning of the War of 1812, when economic strife and political rebellion within Ireland impelled many to emigrate. In so doing, this work aims to augment the historical record on a group of people and a period of time that have received relatively little attention, as most scholars have heretofore focused on the experiences of male Irish immigrants during either the period of North American colonization or Ireland’s Great Famine of the 1840s and 1850s. The research methods utilized include quantitative analysis of data from late-1700s and early-1800s transatlantic passenger lists, newspapers and the intake records of various benevolent societies in Philadelphia. In addition, several case studies based on readings of primary sources, such as letters and journals from the period, are incorporated throughout. The findings of this research undermine the historical notion that the United States was a land of prosperity; many of the women studied put their financial security and even their lives at risk, leaving familiar people and places to engage in a dangerous transatlantic passage and arrive in a city lacking opportunities for women. Thus, the chances they took in leaving Ulster were not often rewarded with comfort, stability, or even subsistence, in Philadelphia.