The news site of Robert Morris University

RMU Sentry Media

The news site of Robert Morris University

RMU Sentry Media

The news site of Robert Morris University

RMU Sentry Media

Thoughts on the world: Let’s celebrate Irish-American women

In March, we not only celebrate women’s history but also Irish-American heritage. Indeed, many Americans trace their roots to the Emerald Isle.

The U.S. Bureau Census reported that 36.9 million Americans claim to have Irish roots. It is the second largest heritage reported by Americans after German. It is no surprise that many famous people in the United States are of Irish descent. Several American presidents are of Irish descent, including John F. Kennedy and the most recent president, Barrack Obama.

Note that many of those famous Irish-Americans were mostly men. Seems like not a lot of focus is given to the Irish-American women, and since March is women’s history month, why not have an article on them.

Did you know that Gracie Allen, famous comedian in the 1930’s, was an Irish-American? In fact, before partnering up with George Burns (who later became her husband) to form a comedy act, Allen used to sing and dance Irish jigs with her sisters in the Larry Reilly Company. She also continued to dance and sing Irish folk songs when she performed with George Burns before they transitioned their act into a radio show. She was very close to her Irish heritage.

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Another famous person who is believed to have been Irish-American is Nellie Bly, a remarkable journalist who pretended to be insane to be sent to the Bellevue Hospital where mentally disabled women were detained. Her undercover work in the hospital exposed the abuse of those women, whom some were actually believed to be sane, and help bring reforms to this situation.

Her work did not stop there. According to, in 1899, she circled the world in 72 days and 6 hrs. She did not succeed, but she wanted to exceed the invented record set on the book, “Around the World in Eight Days,” by Jules Verne.

I had a chance to watch a segmental account of her work in a short documentary in the Newseum in Washington D.C. She was a very impressive woman.

Lastly, we all know that Ireland is comprised of spectacular writers, James Joyce (born in Ireland), F. Scott Fitzgerald, just to name a few. Have you ever heard of Flannery O’Connor?

She was an Irish-American author born in 1925, who wrote appraised short stories, including “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and “An Artificial Nigger.” She also wrote two novels, “Wise Blood” and “The Violent Bear it Away,” but her short stories made her famous.

Her stories reflected life and issues in the South and Catholicism. For those of you who are avid readers, you should definitely check her out.

There are many other famous in the United States who are of Irish descent. Grace Kelly, Mariah Carey and Rosie O’Donnell are just a few that may know of. I hope you enjoyed learning about those that I covered.

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