Monday, October 17, 2011

Meeting Bridget Moore

Emily Gallagher as Bridget Moore
On October 24, we'll launch "Meet Bridget" an exciting new program for school groups. On this tour, students will talk with a costumed interpreter portraying Bridget Moore, an Irish immigrant who lived at 97 Orchard Street with her family in the 1860's. If you've taken our tour about the Moore family, you know a bit about Bridget's life already. Here, Educator Emily Gallagher answers a few questions from Bridget's perspective.

You were only 17 when you immigrated to the United States from Ireland. Were you frightened? What were your first impressions of New York City?

I was quite troubled to leave Ireland. I feel my heart could have broken for thinking of my family on that ship and in the early days in New York. Yet it was clear our situation was root, hog, or die.*  Leaving for America was the only way I could spare my family the fortune that it might cost to find me a husband. I come from outside Dublin, where my family and I could barely care for ourselves. When I first arrived off the boat, I was so tired! Yet straightaway I headed to the intelligence office to look for a situation as a domestic. My first years in New York were lived out tired and lonesome in the back of a lady's home, where I learned to cook and clean and be on tap all night and day if the missus needed anything, seven days a week.

Your apartment is so well kept! How do you keep it so clean, living in the city with three children?

It's much easier to keep a home in Kleindeutschland than it was in our previous home, in Five Points. In Five Points our tenement was dilapidated and overcrowded, making it near impossible to be tidy. Here at 97 Orchard Street, Joseph (my husband) and I are feeling blessed to live alone with just our family, in a new and sturdy building. Still, it's quite an effort of sweeping and scrubbing, quite tiresome to haul water and coal up the central stairs with my daughters in tow. When I was a wee lass in Ireland, there was no climbing of stairs or coal dust to sweep, and the wee ones could run outside without risk. Here, Joseph and I are learning to keep our daughters close-- the city is full of dangers for them.

What does your husband do for a living? Was it hard for him to find work when he arrived here from Ireland?

I am quite blessed to have our Joseph, who works as a barkeep back in our old neighborhood. During the season when strong families come to holiday in the City, he also works as a waiter in a popular restaurant. He arrived in New York from Dublin, able to read and write, and was determined to work in a pub. Many of the situations he wanted specified "No Irish" in their want ads, so he had to rely on the community to help him find his position. He is a charming one, and good looking, so eventually a bar owner wanted him to be a part of his business. His situation is quite enviable, he makes a decent wage and works indoors and can eat from the larder there, so I understand that we must do whatever he is asked to keep his relations with his employer. It saddens me that we get so little time together, but I am glad to be the wife of someone of such importance.

I see you have some ingredients for dinner here on the table. What kinds of foods do you and your family eat?

While I'm pleased to live in this new building, it has stretched our budget quite thin. When I worked as a domestic I learned to cook many fine dishes, but because of our expenses here what I can provide for my daughters and Joseph is quite meager. Sometimes Joseph brings me a loaf of bread from the pub, which is a nice treat since we can't quite bake it in these cast iron  stoves. Tonight I am making a stew with a tiny bit of meat I got from a pushcart, carrots and potatoes. We'll drink whatever Joseph brings home in the growler this evening, except for our wee one Agnes, who will drink the milk I purchased from a pushcart this afternoon. Sometimes she fusses so when I feed her, I can't understand it.

 *(1860s phrase meaning to be self-reliant, see here)

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