For the Irish fleeing the potato famines - as well as for other immigrants - life in New York was an improvement from a material standpoint.
Newly arrived immigrants worked in a variety of skilled and unskilled jobs, including construction, carpentry, masonry, dressmaking, printing, housekeeping, and hat making. Men, women, and even children contributed to the family income which hovered around $600 a year, enough to put meat on the table at most meals and buy fashionable household goods and clothing.
For working-class men, life included membership in fraternal orders, trade unions, and fire companies as well as the camaraderie of the many local grog shops. Women formed strong support networks in the tenements, sharing the burden of child care and domestic responsibilities.