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Abstract

Numerous books have been written about American feminism and its influence on education and society. But none have recognized the key role played by Irish American women in exposing injustice and protecting their rights. Certainly their literary heritage, inherent knowledge of English, and membership in the single largest ethnic group gave them an advantage. But their dual positions as colonized, second-class citizens of their country and their religion gave them their political edge, a trait that has been evident since the Irish first stepped off the boat and that continues to this day. This essay focuses on the first wave of these feminist messages by introducing Irish American writers and activists who emerged between the 1830s and 1960s. It locates Irish American women’s influence in three different, yet overlapping milieus—political activism, journalism, and literature.

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