Illustrations added by the editor; they did not appear in the original text.)
Bessy Conway; or, The Irish Girl in America Preface
It seems to me that there is little need of a Preface for Bessy Conway. The object of the book is plain; so plain, indeed, that there is no possibility of any one's mistaking it for a better or a worse. It is simply an attempt to point out to Irish Girls in America -- especially that numerous class whose lot it is to hire themselves out for work, the true and never -- failing path to success in this world, and happiness in the next. Perhaps in the vast extent of the civilized world, there is no class more exposed to evil influences than the Irish Catholic girls who earn a precarious living at service in America. To those who are even superficially acquainted with the workings of that chaotic mass which forms the population of our cities, of the awful depth of corruption weltering below the surface, and the utter forgetfulness of things spiritual, it is a matter of surprise that so many of the simple-hearted peasant girls of Ireland retain their home-virtues and follow the teachings of religion in these great Babylons of the west.
The subject looms up before us in tremendous proportions as we come to consider it, and the mind shrinks appalled from the consequences and probabilities presenting themselves on every side. The vast member of these girls, their unprotected state, generally speaking; the dangers of every kind awaiting them after they have slipped the moorings which bound them in safety to the old Christian laud, where virtue and religion are the basis of society; and, unfortunately, the mischief is not confined to themselves. Every woman has a mission, either for good or evil; and, unhappily for society, the lax, and the foolish, and the unprincipled will find husbands as well as the good and virtuous. The sphere of influence thus extended, who can calculate the results, whether good or ill ?
Some may say that I have drawn too gloomy a picture. Such persons know little about it. The reality exceeds my powers of description, and I have only to say in conclusion, that the fathers and mothers who so suffer their young daughters to come out unprotected to America in search of imaginary goods, would rather see them laid in their graves than lose sight of them, if they know the dangers which beset their path in the New World
I have written this book from a sincere and heartfelt desire to benefit these young country-women of mine, by showing them how to win respect and inspire confidence on the part of their employers, and at the same time, to avoid the nares and pitfalls which have been the ruin of so many of their own class. Let them be assured that it rests with themselves whether they do well or ill in America—whether they do honor to their country and their faith, or bring shame and reproach to both.
New York. June, 1861
Sadlier Home Page
Continue to Chapter 1