Monday, May 28, 2007


By the 1970s, the tide of decline in membership changed to an increase for both the AOH and LAOH. With the explosion of the interest in ethnicity and genealogy due to the successful television mini-series of Alex Haley’s Roots during the 1970s combined with
a time of great social and political turmoil inspired by the Vietnam War, the
Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and the Women’s Movement, people
of many different national backgrounds began to recognize and assert their
ethnic identities. They objected to ethnic stereotypes and promoted the benefits
of their individual cultures. They took the view that rather than a “melting pot,”
America was more like a “tossed salad” in which each ingredient is distinct and
adds its own flavor the whole[1]

This was also a time where both the AOH and LAOH seemed to be reborn. In 2004, the AOH has over seventeen divisions and total membership of over 2000 in Ohio, while the LAOH has over ten divisions in eight counties and a total membership of over 700. Both organizations continue to induct new members every month into their respective organizations.[2]

The activities of the LAOH changed during the course of the twentieth century. During the early years of the LAOH, the Hibernian women tended to keep within the traditional societal roles of women in carrying out their activities for the order. During the early part of the twentieth century, “propriety demanded that wives [and women in general] remain at home, and in many cases domestic chores and childbearing drained them of any energy that they might have devoted to intellectual activities or careers.”[3] According to Sara M. Evans, a historian of women’s history, “the urban middle class appeared to be devoted primarily to the elaboration of a life-style focused on domesticity and motherhood.”[4] She went on to argue that “women were to serve as an emotional center of the family and home.”[5] Although women were confined to the home, they were able to take part in the community through organizations such as the LAOH.[6]

In the beginning of the twentieth century, the LAOH, or the Auxiliary as it was known, was featured in the March 16, 1903 issue of the Youngstown Daily Vindicator in an article describing the Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations in the city. Mr. J.T. Carroll, state secretary for the AOH state board of Ohio commented that the evening’s festivities would not be complete without thanking the ladies for “their assistance in furthering the A.O.H. work” and the Auxiliary members who sang at the banquet with their “sweet soprano voice.”[7] The ladies division in Youngstown met every other Wednesday evening at the AOH hall at 145 W. Federal.[8] In addition to singing at the banquets of the AOH, the Auxiliary held an Easter dance and card parties to provide entertainment for the men of the order.[9] Auxiliary members in other cities played similar roles according to newspaper accounts in the cities of Toledo and Dayton.[10] State board president of the LAOH prior to World War I, Eva DeVanney summarized that the motto of the friendship, unity and Christian charity
will be practically demonstrated so that in coming years all entitled to
membership will be included in its ranks and the history, language, customs,
traditions and songs of our mother country will be perpetuated.[11]

The LAOH in both Toledo and Dayton raised money for various causes. The Dayton LAOH collected over $1700 and gave it as death benefits to the families of fifteen sisters “who had been called from our midst” during the early years of the organization.[12] The LAOH in Toledo’s project focused raising money for the stained glass windows in the new Irish parish of St. Patrick’s on Avondale Avenue in downtown Toledo. The women of the organization, along with the men of the AOH, were able to raise enough money to install a beautiful stained glass window depicting St. Patrick and the birth of Christianity in Ireland.[13] Both of these examples fulfilled the traditional role of women within the community, which was to assist their community in times of need and to improve the beauty of their surroundings.[14]

However, bigger events to plan for the Youngstown divisions came to fruition with the announcement that the AOH state convention of 1904 would be held there on August 9th through the 11th.[15] The women assisted with the planning of the state convention, which began in June of 1904 according to an announcement in the Youngstown Daily Vindicator. The announcement states:
The convention soon to be held here is exciting uncommon interest and the enthusiastic way in which the members are perfecting details leads to the conclusion that the gathering will be extremely pleasant as well as successful in other ways.[16]

By the eighth of August, members of both orders began arriving in Youngstown. Some of the members who arrived that day were Catherine Collins of Toledo, the state president of the Auxiliary, state secretary Gertrude O’Brien, state treasurer Mary Blakeley and state board officers for the men’s order including D.D. Cahill and J.P. Rigney.[17]

The Daily Vindicator described Catherine Collins as “brilliantly educated, tactful president” in an article about the first day of the convention.[18] Collins addressed the Convention delegates with the following statement:
It is indeed a pleasure to me to have an opportunity to greet the majority of this assembly as sisters and brothers in the cause of friendship, unity, and true Christian charity, as children of the mother church and as sons and daughters of an unconquered race. The auxiliary to the A.O.H. is still in its infancy but by faithfully following the footsteps of our brothers we have already accomplished a great deal for the cause of education by contributing $10,000 for the endowment of a free scholarship for the members at Trinity college. Our hopes for the future are many but among our most cherished are the introduction of Irish history and the revival of Irish literature in our schools.[19]

Collins came across as a traditional, but strong and independent woman who informed the men of the convention that the women were pursuing their own goals, and not just what the members of the men’s order deemed appropriate for them. She followed the proscribed gender role of women of that time by promoting the traditional roles of women in educating the children on both the primary and higher levels of education. A testament to her character was her refusal to accept another term as state president she said that “there are so many capable, brilliant young women throughout the state who are willing to fill the office.”[20]

In addition to Collins, the journalistic coverage of the convention focused on Gertrude O’Brien of Urbana, Ohio who was re-elected to her position of state secretary “by acclamation which shows her popularity” according to the Youngstown Vindicator. The Vindicator described Miss O’Brien as “ a charming young lady and [was] gifted with many affable and pleasing traits” who was “deeply devoted to the interest of the L.A.O.H. and there is no more sincere worker [than her] in the organization.”[21]

Besides commenting on the individual leaders of the LAOH, the newspapers concentrated on the philanthropic ventures of the organization. The Youngstown Daily Vindicator came across as “surprised” by the fact that the auxiliary treasury “ had a balance of $9,030.45” which the reporter remarked was “a financial condition which would do credit to any association.” The report continued, “ the members of this state forwarded a contribution of $525 to the $10,000 endowment given Trinity college by the national auxiliary and … [gave] without reserve to countless other worthy enterprises.”[22] The endowment at Trinity College was created in 1902 at the Denver, Colorado national convention, where “a resolution was adopted to establish a four years’ scholarship.” The leaders of the LAOH set up the endowment as they saw a “need for and the value of good educational opportunities for the young women of the day.”[23]

After commenting on the charitable activities of the organization, attention was drawn to the number of people involved and the Daily Vindicator seemed impressed with the number of members in the auxiliary. At the 1904 state convention, the auxiliary had over 2500 members.[24] In addition to commenting on its large membership, the paper sang the praises of the Youngstown division of the auxiliary:
Although organized but six years, the Mahoning county division of the Ladies’ Auxiliary has prospered in a most remarkable manner, and none are more active in the state. The constitution of the auxiliary is practically the same as that of the men and many a benevolent and charitable action has been engineered by them.[25]

The delegates of the AOH complimented the women on the work, yet the editorial board of The Youngstown Daily Vindicator did not fail to mention that a woman’s duty was to the home first:
They have accomplished and are accomplishing a great and noble work and we believe that they are doing this work without detriment to home and fireside. The Irish women of today are maintaining the noblest traditions of the women of our race. It was Christianity that first emancipated womankind, and in woman has ever been found the purest and best exemplifications of Christian virtues and Christian principles.[26]

Although the news coverage gave a favorable opinion of the LAOH, by the tone of the report, the paper appeared that it did not want to insinuate the idea that women should neglect their duties to the children and home by taking part in fraternal organizations, but rather that such involvement kept women in their confined societal roles as cook, housekeeper, and nurturer.

After the conclusion of the 1904 state convention, the auxiliary went back to the normal order of business such as planning and participating in social gatherings and charity events with the AOH. In May of 1912, the six local divisions of the AOH along with Auxiliary held an outing at Lincoln Park in Youngstown. The outing was to serve as a fundraiser for a local hospital, St. Elizabeth’s. Events such as ball games, sprinting, dancing, and other Gaelic related sports were organized, which drew over 5,000 people.[27]

During the time of events such as the state convention and the fundraiser for St. Elizabeth’s the Auxiliary in Youngstown saw an increase in membership when it expanded from one division to four by 1915.[28] This increase in membership can possibly be explained by the fact that during this time the overwhelmingly majority of Irish immigrants were women, according to historian Janet Nolan. These women were fleeing Ireland due to the loss of their independence and life, as then they had lived prior to the Great Hunger of the 1840s and early 1850s. Before the Great Hunger, women in Ireland were seen as equals in society, however they were seen as secondary to Irish men afterwards. This new role for Irish women forced many “to seek a new direction in their lives by emigrating.”[29] Between the years of 1880 and 1920, the majority of emigrants coming from Ireland to the Untied States were women.

Nolan argues that the influx of female migration during those years resulted from the fact that Ireland lacked an urban and industrial culture. “The inhibiting social, demographic, and economic constraints placed on women promoted overall economic recovery but, at the same time, also prevented women from achieving an adult status as wives and wage earners within the still agricultural world of rural Ireland.”[30] Women saw emigration as their chance at gaining back what they had lost in Ireland as a result of the Great Hunger or An Gorta Mor.[31] Upon their arrival in America, women worked in various occupations such as domestic service and joined Irish fraternal organizations such as the LAOH “where women found support and aid” which enabled them to remain committed to their heritage according to historian Hasia Diner.[32] Diner goes on to state that “their economic assertiveness and strong sense of self did not jar those cultural traditions but proved instead to be the mechanism for blending old-world ideals with American needs.”[33]

Irish women became involved in all facets of Irish-American life, which helped them to regain the independence and status that they once had in Ireland. However, with this independence, many women turned away from their cultural roots and instead celebrated their newly found American heritage. This new sense of being an American combined with the political events including the outbreak of World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II, led the LAOH to suffer a decline in membership. The children and grandchildren of Irish immigrants became Americanized and did not seem to be concerned with keeping the heritage of the older generations alive. This lack of interest in Irish roots can be tied to a variety of factors such as the devastation of two world wars which led a to great loss of life and an economic depression which caused people to be more concerned about putting food on the table than maintaining the cultural roots of the earlier generations.[34] A final and most important factor, which led to the decline in membership of the LAOH, was that the majority of the island of Ireland achieved its independence from Britain in 1921. Since Ireland was finally free of British rule, many Irish-Americans were no longer concerned with the events that occurred back in the old homeland. According to noted Irish-American historian Lawrence J. McCaffrey, “many Irish-American Catholics were disgusted and puzzled by the 1922-1923 civil war between Free Staters and Republic diehards.”[35] The overwhelming majority of Hibernians felt the same way in regards to the Irish civil war and “they agreed with Michael Collins, Ireland’s leading hero in the 1919-1921 guerilla war of liberation, that dominion status was a major British concession, and that it provided an opportunity for expanded sovereignty.”[36]

[1] Michael Novak, Ethnic Groups Never Truly “Melt’ into American Culture Immigration: Opposing Viewpoints, ed David L. Bender and others (San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1992), 49-50.
[2] Information compiled from AOH and LAOH state board information given to author via correspondence from J. Michael Finn, state historian of Ohio for the AOH and Ann Dollman, LAOH state board vice president. Information given to author consisted of directory and membership lists for each division in the state of Ohio. Uncatalogued material, Ward M. Canaday Center, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio.
[3] Barbara J. Harris, Beyond Her Sphere: Women and the Professions in American History (Wesport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1978), 102.
[4] Sara M. Evans, Born for Liberty: A History of Women in America (New York: The Free Press, 1989), 138.
[5] Ibid., 229.
[6] Additional information which the author used to explain how the early twentieth century LAOH’s activities differed from that of the late twentieth century organization: Teresa Amott and Julie Matthaei, Race, Gender, and Work: A Multicultural Economic History of Women in the United States (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1991), Babara Kuhn Campbell, The “Liberated” Woman of 1914: Prominent Women in the Progressive Era (United States: UMI Research Press, 1976), Maurine Weiner Greenwald, “Working-Class Feminism and the Family Wage Idea: The Seattle Debate on Married Women’s Right to Work, 1914-1920l” The Journal of American History (Jan.,1989) & Sharon Sassler, “Learning to Be an ‘American Lady’?: Ethnic Variation in Daughters’ Pursuits in the Early 1900s” Gender and Society, (Feb., 2000).
[7] The Youngstown Daily Vindicator, 16 March 1903.
[8] The Burch Directory (city directory of Youngstown, Ohio, 1903 & 1904).
[9] The Youngstown Daily Vindicator, 20 February 1904.
[10] Toledo News Bee, March 1904. Toledo Blade, March 1905. Dayton Daily Vindicator, March 1903, March 1904, March 1907.
[11] Townsend, Centennial celebration, 1896-1996,1. The Dayton division also assisted sisters who were in need of financial assistance for medical reasons as well.

39 Information on the Toledo LAOH project was taken from the following sources: Toledo Blade (Toledo, Ohio), 16-18 March 1904 & 20 July 1904 and Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, Local History Collections, Historic Church of St. Patrick records, Toledo, Ohio, Box 1 Folder 2-5, Box 2 Folder 16-18, Box 3 Folder 37, and Box 4 Folder 70,95,114,118, and 121.
40 Harris, Beyond Her Sphere, Campbell, The “Liberated” Woman of 1914, and Evans, Born for Liberty
41 The Youngstown Daily Vindicator, 21 July 1904.
42 Ibid.
43 Ibid., 1 June 1904.

[17] Ibid.
[18] Ibid., 9 August 1904.
[19] A scholarship, which is still given annually to either a member of the LAOH or a relative of a member at the national convention. Excerpt of speech taken from the following source: The Youngstown Daily Vindicator, 9 August 1904.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Ibid., 12 August 1904.
[22] Ibid.
[23] Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians and Trinity College: Partners in the Education of Women for More than a Century. Brochure in the hand of Ann Dollman, state board Vice President, Toledo, Ohio. Brochure is a timeline of information about the relationship between the LAOH and Trinity College in Washington, D.C., Uncatalogued material, Ward M. Canaday Center, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio.
[24] The Youngstown Daily Vindicator, 10 August 1904.
[25] Ibid.
[26] Ibid., 11 August 1904.
[27] Ibid., 24 May 1912.
[28] Youngstown City Directory (1915, Youngstown).
[29] Nolan, Ourselves Alone: Women’s Emigration, 42. Before the 1880s, men made up of over fifty percent of those emigrating from Ireland. By 1885, females were the emigrant majority. This shift occurred as more opportunities became available to men in Ireland, while those for women were non-existent. Lack of opportunity combined with a decrease in the male population and an increase in the female population, led to the increase in female emigration.
[30] Ibid., 73.
[31] In Ireland, it is referred to as An Gorta Mor. Also known as the more commonly used Famine, but I disagree with the word famine as that would indicate that there were no sources of food available in Ireland and that all of the crops had failed. However, the only crop that failed was the potato, which 90% of the Irish relied on as their main source of food. According to Dr. Seamus Metress, noted scholar of Irish Studies, the An Gorta Mor was “a time period when Irish peasants starved in the midst of plenty. Wheat, oats, barley, butter, eggs, beef, and pork were exported from Ireland in large quantities.” Seamus Metress & Richard A. Rajner, The Great Starvation: AN Irish Holocaust (Stony Point, NY: American Ireland Education Foundation, 1996), xviii. An Gorta Mor is an Irish phrase that is used extensively throughout the field of Irish Studies and in the Republic of Ireland.
[32] Diner, Erin’s Daughters in America, 153. Members of the LAOH in Ohio were predominantly married women who did not work outside of the home. Newspaper coverage about the LAOH seemed to introduce LAOH members as Mrs so and so and not Miss. Many Irish single women were often too busy working to earn a living to become involved in LAOH activities. Once they married, however, many women were able to combine LAOH activities with their roles as wives and mothers.
[33] Ibid.
[34] Thomas O’Mahoney, interview with author, 12 December 2003. Uncatalogued material, Ward M. Canaday Center, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio.
[35] McCaffrey, The Irish Catholic Diaspora, 169.
[36] AOH/LAOH opinion comes from the following interviews conducted by the author: Ann Dollman, interview with author, 14 December 2003; Sister Ann McManus, interview with author, 12 December 2003; Mary Ann Buckley, interview with author, 24 November 2003; Thomas O’Mahoney, Ohio AOH state board president, interview with author, February 2004; and J. Michael Finn, Ohio AOH state board historian, interview with author, February 2004. Uncatalogued material, Ward M. Canaday Center, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio.