Margaret Lynch-Brennan is a current public scholar for Humanities New York (formerly the New York Council for the Humanities). She lives in Latham, New York, and has been a member since 2002.
Alma maters: BA (social studies/secondary education), College of St. Rose, 1972; MA (American history), University at Albany, State University of New York, 1976; PhD (American history), University at Albany, State University of New York, 2002
Fields of interest: American and Irish immigration, gender, labor
Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today? I began as a grades 6, 7, and 8 social studies teacher and my career wanderings have taken me through work as a teacher at the elementary, secondary, undergraduate, and graduate levels; a law clerk; a copy editor/proofreader; a state government administrator of federal grants and programs; an independent scholar; and a consultant to historic house museums on the interpretation of Irish domestic servants. The thread that connects my various employment endeavors is my love of history, teaching, and start-up projects.
What do you like the most about where you live and work? I live outside of Albany, New York, in a region rich in American history. It is also centrally located between Boston, New York City, and Montreal, thereby providing me with easy access to the historical and cultural offerings in those cities. I love the freedom from regular work routines that I have as an independent scholar.
What projects are you currently working on? I am currently a public scholar for Humanities New York through which I provide lectures to nonprofit organizations on my book, The Irish Bridget: Irish Immigrant Women in Domestic Service in America, 1840–1930. It remains the sole book published on the topic.
Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how? My interest in American and Irish immigration, gender, and labor in American history has intensified since I earned my PhD in 2002. I read constantly to try to keep up-to-date in these areas.
What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research? I am a great “follow the footnotes” reader. Early in my doctoral studies I read in the footnotes of a required reading that in the 19th century most Irish immigrant women in America worked as domestic servants when they first arrived in the US. That was news to me and so I tucked the information away, remembering it and using it when it came time to choose a dissertation topic. Thereafter, I turned my dissertation into my book, The Irish Bridget.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?I believe Hebert G. Gutman’s “Work, Culture, and Society in Industrializing America, 1815–1919,” American Historical Review 78, no. 3 (June 1973) is timeless and should be read by all those interested in American history.
What do you value most about the history discipline? In this age of “alternative facts,” it is crucially important that the discipline of history requires that one’s contentions be supported by evidence that can be scrutinized by others.
Why is membership in the AHA important to you? Through the AHA, I keep abreast of current scholarship, current trends, best practices, and problems in the field.
Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote you would like to share? Because of the energy I felt and the camaraderie I experienced, I actually enjoyed myself at my first AHA annual meeting in Seattle in 2005 even though I got sick while attending it!
AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Today features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.