American writer Thornton Wilder once described Newport as a community made up of nine cities, each with its separate identity. Like Theophilus North’s fictional Newport of 1926, each city has its own story to tell and Nora Mulloy’s is one of them.
Born in County Roscommon Ireland, Nora Mulloy immigrated to Newport and like many single Irish women, found employment as a domestic in a series of prominent households. Eventually she was able to set aside enough money to run her own boarding house. Though she never married, she raised two orphaned nieces with whom she lived until her death in 1954. Members of the Mulloy family still reside in Newport today.
Nora’s Newport was a working-class town inhabited by people who drew their identity from their family, their religion, their heritage, and their neighborhood. Their labor was vital to Newport’s rise as a fashionable resort, and their leisure activities were uniquely their own. A maid’s half-day off may have included kitchen rackets, ceili dancing at the Forty Steps or the ritual bathing of “Ladies Day”. This presentation explores how Irish immigrants, like Nora Mulloy, helped create a vibrant working-class culture in Newport during the early part of the twentieth century.
JOYCE M. BOTELHO is an independent scholar with more than twenty-five years of professional experience in the field of public history. She holds an A.B. in Literature and Languages from Bard College and a master’s degree in History from Brown University and has taught at Brown, Providence College, and Salve Regina University. Ms. Botelho is employed by the Rhode Island Foundation as the Philanthropy Officer for the Newport County Fund. This is her first lecture for the Museum of Newport Irish History.