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An Immigrant Writes a Letter Home to Ireland

Mary Ann Rowe emigrated to America from Ireland in 1888 because her father promised to leave his farm to her younger sister as a marriage dowry. Her letter to a friend back home in Dunnamaggan, suggests the homesickness experienced by millions of immigrants who left friends and family far behind. Despite finding her new surroundings in Dedham, Massachusetts agreeable, Rowe confides to her friend that "there is not a night but I do be dreaming about you or someone from home."

October 29, 1888

My dear friend, 

It is not through any lack of friendship that I stayed so long without writing to you. I do feel so bad when I go to write to home, I don’t be the better of it for a long time. I would never have left poor Dunnamaggan if I only thought I would be so homesick. I cannot banish the thought of home out of my mind. There is not a night but I do be dreaming about you or someone from home. I dreamed last night that little John was dying. I fancied I was looking at him and had the pleasure of kissing him before he died. I hope and trust nothing is the matter with any of them.

Oh, when I look back to our former days! How often we spent an afternoon on Sunday chatting over something funny. When I think of poor little Ellen and Jeannie, how they used to come out in the fields to where we used to be working, and poor little Mary Anne, how she used to call “John, John, John.” How nice we used to put in the Sunday together with the little ones around us.

Yet I am living with a very nice family here in Dedham, Massachusetts. They are very nice people. I would not be allowed to go outside to put out the clothes even when the dew was on the grass without rubber boots on me, my mistress is so very careful of me. And I am within two or three minutes walk from the church. There is a splendid church here in Dedham and three priests. I can go to mass every Sunday and to confession whenever I want to. Dedham is a very nice place and it is a country-looking place when you look around, there is nothing but trees.

I must draw to a close for the present by sending you all my love.

I remain your affectionate friend until death,

Mary Ann Rowe

Source | Kerby Miller and Paul Wagner, Out of Ireland: The Story of Irish Emigration to America (Washington, D.C.: Elliott & Clark Publishing, 1994) 76.
Creator | Mary Ann Rowe
Item Type | Diary/Letter
Cite This document | Mary Ann Rowe, “An Immigrant Writes a Letter Home to Ireland,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 7, 2023,

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