“Dress – The Maker” illustration from Godeys, 1851
April 7 Monday Have had a dress maker to work for Susan
She has cut a new waist to her gingham and fitted
the waist of a light purple dress I think she has
done very well for Irish. She appears to be a pleasant
girl This evening Orinthia and I have been to Mr
Barrows & Torreys to make a call. Abby was
very lively & has improved very much in her appearance
within a year or two
After weeks of sewing shirts and mending coats for the men of the family, Evelina turned her attention to outfitting her daughter who, at nearly nine years old, had probably outgrown the previous year’s dresses. It was time to rework Susie’s old dresses and perhaps make some new. For this task, Evelina brought in help: a new, young dressmaker named Julia Mahoney.
Like many young women in the village of North Easton, Julia was Irish. Like many of the older women in the village, Evelina held the Irish in some disdain. Without necessarily meaning to be unkind, but clearly feeling some superiority, Evelina expressed her prejudice in a backhanded compliment of surprise at Julia’s fine work and pleasant demeanor. Julia did “very well for Irish.”
Evelina had imbibed some of the Yankee resentment against the Irish immigrants who had moved into Massachusetts, and elsewhere, so rapidly and in such numbers. While her husband Oakes seemed free from the prejudice, other Ameses, particularly Old Oliver, were not. His displeasure with the Irish employees at the shovel shop was legendary and the bias came through at home as well. The old Yankee ways were threatened by the new foreign residents, and antipathy thrived accordingly.