In late 19th & early 20th century New York, newly arrived Irish Catholics were considered low-class by other ethnically “Anglo-Saxon” groups, such as German, English, & Dutch, who were mostly Protestant.
“Low-class” is perhaps too mild a term. The Irish were considered hardly better than Negroes, whom most Anglos believed were sub-human. Odd as it may seem to us today, the fair-skinned, blonde or red-headed Irish were not considered white in a time and place that white supremacy was a given.
Consequently, migrants from the Emerald Island faced horrific discrimination. “Irish need not apply” was a common sign in the windows of many Eastern businesses. The Irish in New York City languished in hopeless poverty, where they had inferior housing, food, medical treatment, and education (if at all).
Moreover, there seemed to be no end to the number of Irish street urchins. The orphanages run by Catholic nuns could not accommodate them all. Public records show that about 150 Irish children were abandoned every month and there were not nearly enough adoptive homes in the area to save them from a hellish life on New York City streets. Read More