Graduation Date


Document Type

Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Thousands of single Irish women emigrated to the United States after the Great Potato Famine. These women left Ireland because social conditions in Ireland limited their opportunities for fulfilling lives. Changes in marriage and inheritance patterns lowered the status of unmarried women and made marriage increasingly unlikely. As a result, many women emigrated to the United States and, once here, worked, used their wages to help others emigrate, and most eventually married. Irish culture facilitated this mass migration by promoting the autonomy of single women yet limiting their options. Emigration did not signify a break with their Irish culture and their families but represented a culturally approved solution to the constraints single women faced in Ireland.