The Irish in America, and an Irish lady in Watertown in honor of St. Patrick's Day

As St. Patrick's day is impending, I find myself thinking about my heritage and the legacy of the Irish in America. Here's just a few facts for those of you who were wondering:

The 2000 United State Census reports 30,528,492 persons claiming Irish ancestry, 10.8% of the total American population. This is over 7 times the population of Ireland itself, which was 4 million in the year 2003.

Irish-Americans are the largest ancestral group in Washington DC, Delaware, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

Here is a complete breakdown of the Irish-American population, by state

State Irish-American population Irish-Americans as a percentage of total population

Alabama 342,274 7.7

Alaska 67,578 10.8

Arizona 524,306 10.2

Arkansas 254,773 9.5

California 2,611,449 7.7

Colorado 525,507 12.2

Connecticut 565,290 16.6

DC 28,081 4.9

Delaware 129,701 16.6

Florida 1,645,585 10.3

Georgia 640,729 7.8

Hawaii 52,755 4.4

Idaho 129,407 10.0

Illinois 1,511,569 12.2

Indiana 655,530 10.8

Iowa 395,506 13.5

Kansas 309,181 11.5

Kentucky 423,237 10.5

Louisiana 314,647 7.0

Maine 192,344 15.1

Maryland 621,779 11.7

Massachusetts 1,426,453 22.5

Michigan 1,067,474 10.7

Minnesota 552,172 11.2

Mississippi 195,224 6.9

Missouri 711,120 12.7

Montana 133,952 14.8

Nebraska 229,506 13.4

Nevada 219,974 11.0

New Hampshire 240,295 19.4

New Jersey 1,335,535 15.9

New Mexico 132,997 7.3

New York 2,451,042 12.9

North Carolina 594,798 7.4

North Dakota 49,346 7.7

Ohio 1,445,668 12.7

Oklahoma 354,233 10.3

Oregon 406,431 11.9

Pennsylvania 1,981,106 16.1

Rhode Island 193,097 18.4

South Carolina 317,490 7.9

South Dakota 78,379 10.4

Tennessee 526,571 9.3

Texas 1,502,841 7.2

Utah 131,510 5.9

Vermont 99,880 16.4

Virginia 694,263 9.8

Washington 669,861 11.4

West Virginia 198,108 11.0

Wisconsin 582,316 10.9

Wyoming 65,622 13.3

Some might find it odd, but on St. Patrick's Day, I'm going to spend part of it at a funeral. The former mayor of Watertown, Bette Moisan who passed away recently is going to be celebrated and remembered on St Patrick's Day. Her son, South Dakota's artist of the state seal John Moisan is also having an authentic Irish wake as part of the tribute to her life and achievements.

As John has related the story to me, Bette got her start in Watertown politics when she approached a city councilman. This single mother of limited means expressed a desire to become active in city politics - possibly even running for office one day herself.

The local politician poked in her direction with his cigar, and suggested that she would be better off going back into the kitchen, and that she had no business running for office.

Bette's reply? As John relates it, she politely told the man "well, maybe I'll just take your seat then."

And she did. Running a door to door campaign with mimeographed fliers, she destroyed him at the ballot box and started a career which culminated with her being elected as the first female mayor of Watertown.

Proud of her heritage, and a perfect example of the tenacious "can do" attitude of the Irish, I expect her send off into the great hereafter will be as memorable as the woman was herself.
May the road rise with you.
May the wind always be at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again
May God keep you in the hollow of his hand.
And may you be gone to him a half hour
Before the devil finds out ye left
- Old Irish Blessing.


O'anonymous said…
This is the spirit that made America! Happy St. Patrick's Day!
McNonymous said…
Erin go bra-less
Anonymous said…
Bette was an amazing woman and her son John is honoring her not only in death but also in life by utilizing his skills to honor the veterans of our state. We will miss her.
Anonymous said…
I didn't know she was Irish, but now I understand why they waited over a week for the funeral, they wanted it on St. Patty's Day!
Anonymous said…
DC is at only 4.9%, most States are much higher, Vermont and Rhode Island are way up there, too.
O'nonymous said…
Ray Mullin, the golden gloves boxer from the 40's told me -- "If ya ain't Irish, your no good."

Bette was good!

Happy St. Pat's Day to all.
jeffymom said…
Thanks for the heads-up. I didn't know Bette personally, but I know her eldest grandchild who loved her dearly. I may have to make a quick trip to Watertown myself today.
betty olson said…
Because it's St. Patrick's Day and because Bette was Irish, here's a story for you from another Irish Betty:

Two Irishmen, Patrick & Michael, were adrift in a lifeboat following a dramatic escape from a burning freighter. While rummaging through the boat's provisions, Patrick stumbled across an old lamp.
Secretly hoping that a genie would appear, he rubbed the lamp vigorously. To the amazement of Patrick, a genie came forth. This particular genie, however, stated that he could only deliver one wish, not the standard three. Without giving much thought to the matter, Patrick blurted out, "Make the entire ocean into Guinness Beer!"
The genie clapped his hands with a deafening crash, and immediately the entire sea turned into the finest brew ever sampled by mortals. Simultaneously, the genie vanished.
Only the gentle lapping of Guinness on the hull broke the stillness as the two men considered their circumstances. Michael looked disgustedly at Patrick whose wish had been granted.
After a long, tension-filled moment, he spoke: "Nice going Patrick! Now we're going to have to pee in the boat!"

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!!!

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