From the Ward to the White House: The Irish in American Politics

George Reedy, Author Scribner Book Company $22.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-684-18977-2
Reedy's lively overview of the Irish experience in America traces the Potato Famine immigrants from the time they were considered ``an indigestible lump'' to their eventual assimilation, as epitomized by the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy to the presidency. Much of the book deals with the Irish political machines under such urban strongmen as James Michael Curley of Boston, Thomas Pendergast of Kansas City, Edward Crump of Memphis, Richard Daley of Chicago. Reedy notes that the history of the Irish machines is shot through with thievery on a grand scale, but argues persuasively that these organizations filled a unifying role and left an enduring legacy that includes the Democratic Party's commitment to helping citizens at the bottom of the social ladder. The Irish machines, he shows, provided social services for the poor at a time when no one else was doing so. Reedy, professor of journalism at Marquette University, describes how the non-Celtic Franklin Roosevelt became ``boss of bosses'' of the machines, winning their support in return for patronage that kept them in power. Patronage, according to the author, may not have been a noble force, but it has been more effective than any other. Reedy, of Irish descent on both sides, was Lyndon Johnson's press secretary. Photos. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1991
Release date: 03/01/1991
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