I know I have said many times that politics is not what my blog is about. And it still isn’t. However, my blog is about encouragement, inspiration, heartwarming stories, and about things and people that inspire ME. In the long ago days of the early part of the 20th century, people set up settlement houses. These were places that good and loving people set up so as to help new (albeit legal) immigrants assimilate into the culture. They were taught life skills, the language, and how to navigate their new cities and adapt to their new culture. These were typically highly successful grass roots ways to help people become assimilated into their new culture.
One of these settlement houses was The Margaret Barry Settlement House in Minneapolis, MN. That settlement house was started by a force of nature. She was my great-grandmother. It is with gratitude and pride that I acknowledge her contribution to new (again, albeit legal) immigrants in Minneapolis. These new settlers were encouraged to get educated and learn the language as fast as possible. The new settlers understood their survival and future success depended upon it. They embraced that expectation. They did not resent it. The Irish people who came here from Ireland knew the only way they could get ahead was to learn the language, the ways, and get an education. Margaret Barry certainly helped Irish immigrants. She helped Italian immigrants, too (and other immigrants, too). They had a more difficult time adapting to the language than the Irish immigrants—but she and her fellow volunteers dedicated themselves to helping all of the immigrants.
It has occurred to me that that wave of European immigrants became very successful in their new land because of their assimilation into their new country. They knew they had to “fit in”. They did fit in and yet hung onto some of their traditions. But education and language were huge footholds for them. My great-grandmother was a wonderful woman—-and I am proud to be part of her extensive family tree. My regret? She died before I was born—-but oh my, what a legacy she established.
Someday I hope to go back to Minneapolis and see the building that used to be her settlement house. It leaves me breathless to consider what she did…..my grandmas and great grandmas were liberated WAY before it was the popular thing to be…..women of character….women of joyful commitment…..
I just wanted to think about that….it’s no wonder I am a perennial optimist. I come from a very long line of them 🙂