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Listed Under:  Discrimination  |   Irish Americans  |  

Help Wanted: No Irish Need Apply (Graphic)

Citation Information:"Help Wanted: No Irish Need Apply" (Graphic). A re-creation of a sign hung in shop and factory windows during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Some Irish Americans boycotted stores that had refused to hire Irish long after Irish immigrants had become more accepted. Reproduction courtesy of Rosemary Noonan.

Irish immigrants were unwelcome in the 19th century American workplace. Many lacked skills and increased the competition for day labor and other low paying work; nearly a fourth spoke no English. Wide spread prejudice against the Irish, based in religious and social hysteria, created serious impediments to job opportunities. The dramatic increase in immigration from Ireland during the late 1840s and the 1850s and the limited number of jobs available, fueled a strong resistance to hiring Irish workers. Newspaper advertisements for available work often included a statement that "no Irish need apply." Irish immigrants said that these statements of exclusion, so-called NINAs, were also hung in shop and business windows when jobs were available. Examples of window signs, which were likely made of paper, no longer exist, causing some to question whether NINAs had ever existed, and using the argument to question the contingency of race in the 19th and 20th century. This may really be a problem in semiotics; signs created to illustrate a social phenomenon, then when the signs are found to be "inauthentic" the phenomenon itself is challenged. The larger point is that the policy of excluding Irish was endemic among a certain class of employers.

For another point of view, see Richard Jensen's article "No Irish Need Apply": A Myth of Victimization, originally published in the Journal of Social History 36.2 (2002) 405-429.

For related information, see the following Subject Headings: Race and Ethnicity, Derogatory Representations | Catholic Church | Philadelphia Anti-Catholic Riots.