Daughters of Erin in America

An excerpt from an account of the War of 1812 shows how Irish immigrant women contributed to their new nation.

Typed, yellowed excerpt of the article “The Daughters of Erin Emulating her sons” from the September 3, 1814, New York City-based Irish newspaper, The Shamrock.
“The Daughters of Erin Emulating her sons” 

Edward Gillespy, “The Daughters of Erin Emulating her sons,” The Shamrock, or, Hibernian Chronicle, September 3, 1814. New-York Historical Society Library.

Document Text


The Daughters of Erin Emulating Her Sons. The Daughters of Erin Imitating her Sons
During the time, while 1500 of the sons of Erin were lately working at the forts erecting for the defence of this city, some women were observed busily employed in laying sods and driving pickets. One of them being asked, “what brought you here!” she replied, “to assist in serving our country, I am the wife of BERNARD KENNEDY, I glory and boast of my employment.” We are happy to be thus able to designate one of these patriotic females; believing, as we do that the flame which warms her breast, burns also in that of a great majority of her country-women. Some Irish immigrant women were helping the 1,500 Irish immigrant men who were building forts to defend Washington, D.C, When someone asked why she was there, one woman replied “to help serve my country! I am the wife of Bernard Kennedy and I am proud of what I am doing!” We are happy to identify one of these women. We believe that she is an example of how all Irish immigrant women feel about their new country.

Edward Gillespy, “The Daughters of Erin Emulating her sons,” The Shamrock, or, Hibernian Chronicle, September 3, 1814. New-York Historical Society Library.


In the 1800s the people of Ireland suffered through constant religious conflict, oppressive government, and a failing economy. Many Irish people began immigrating to new countries looking for a better life. The seemingly abundant land and personal freedoms available in the United States were attractive to many Irish men and women. By the 1820s, nearly a third of all immigrants to the U.S. were Irish. As the first major wave of immigrants to the U.S., they would have a profound effect on the culture and immigration policies of the new nation.

About the Document

This article appeared in a New York City-based Irish newspaper in 1814. The writer was in Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812. In this piece, he recounts an encounter he had with some Irish women who were building defenses. The Irish newspaper along with this article shows how early Irish immigrants fully committed themselves to build a new life in their adopted country.


  • War of 1812: A war between the U.S. and Great Britain that lasted from 1812-1815.

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think the journalist felt his encounter with the Irish women was worth reporting?
  • Why do you think Mrs. Bernard Kennedy says the Irish women are there to “assist in serving our country?”
  • What does this article and newspaper reveal about early Irish immigrants?

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Source Notes