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Mimi Cowan

ph.d. candidate

Mimi Cowan


Dissertation Title: "Immigrants, Nativists, and the Making of Nineteenth-Century Chicago"

Dissertation Committee: Kevin Kenny (Advisor), David Quigley, Jim O'Toole


  • MA, Irish Studies, National University of Ireland, Galway
    First Class Honours, November 2004
    Thesis Title: "The Murder of Dr. Cronin: The Irish-American and Nativist Responses, Chicago, 1889"
  • BA in Music, North Central College, Naperville, IL

Research Interests:

My major areas of research include nineteenth-century United States, immigration and urban policy, anti-immigrant sentiment, and immigrant social organization.
My dissertation investigates the roots of key urban policy changes in nineteenth-century Chicago and the role which nativists and immigrants played in these changes. I argue that city leaders’ concerns about the effect of immigrants on Chicago determined the creation of the century’s most hotly contested public policies, such as liquor laws, gun rights, rights to assembly, and freedom of choice in education.
Taking my argument one step further, I look at how immigrants contested these measures and find that, when they were not divided by issues of class, immigrants retained a substantial ability to protect what they understood as their personal rights as Americans.
These local policy decisions had repercussions outside the borders of Chicago; their effects helped to determine statewide political contests, Presidential elections, and Supreme Court cases. By tracing the impact that these local policy decisions had outside of Chicago, I demonstrate the link between transnational migration, local policy, and national trends.

Conference Presentations:

  • "Honorable Citizens, 'Lick-Spittles,' and the 'Vicious Classes: Irish Militias in Chicago, 1855-1875," American Conference for Irish Studies, New Orleans, 2012.
  • "'To Make Them Love and Respect Our Institutions': Educating Immigrants in Reconstruction-Era Chicago," American Historical Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, 2012.
  • “Sex, Murder, and Catholics: Battles for Control of Chicago’s Nineteenth-Century Public Schools,” Social Science History Association Annual Conference, Chicago, November 2010.
  • "Murder, Corruption, and Catholicism: The Making of Chicago's Gilded Age Nativism," Chicago Graduate Student History Conference, Chicago, Illinois. 
  • “John Finerty: An Irish-American in Mexico,” Society for Irish Latin American Studies Conference, Morelia, Mexico, July 2009
  • “Margaret Sullivan: Writer, Republican...and Radical?” Irish Women’s Conference, Drew University, Madison, New Jersey, June 2009
  • “The Construction and Destruction of a Radical Identity: Clan na Gael and Anarchism in 19th Century Chicago,” American Conference for Irish Studies, Galway, June 2009
  • “Anarchism and the Development of Irish-American Nationalism in Chicago,” Labor and Working-Class History Association Conference, May 2009
  • “The Murder of Dr. Cronin, Anarchists, and Chicago’s Irish Nationalists,” Illinois History Conference, Springfield, October 2008
  • “‘A Fiery Cross Blazed Forth’: The K.K.K. in Worcester County, Massachusetts, 1924,” New England Historical Association Conference, October 2008
  • “John Finerty: ‘Representative Irishman, True American, Consistent Patriot,’” American Conference for Irish Studies, New York, April 2007
  • “The Murder of Dr. Cronin & the Chicago Nativist Movement,” New England Regional, American Conference for Irish Studies, Storrs, Connecticut, October 2006


  • "Ducking for Cover: Chicago's Irish Nationalists in the Haymarket Era" in Labor: Studies in Working Class History of the Americas, Spring 2012."
  • “Albert Parsons,” “The Molly Maguires,” and “John P. Altgeld,” in Encyclopedia of American Business, Labor, and Economic History, ed. Melvyn Dubofsky. Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
  • “Augusta Lewis Troup,” “Margaret F. Buchanan Sullivan,” "Anne Sullivan," and “Maud O'Farrell Swartz,” in Women in American History: An Encyclopedia, ed. Hasia R. Diner. New York: Facts On File, forthcoming.
  • Review of Habits of Compassion: Irish Catholic Nuns and the Origins of New York’s Welfare System, 1830-1920, by Maureen Fitzgerald, New York Irish History 20 (2006): 69-70.
  • Review of An Atlas of Irish History, by Ruth Dudley Edwards, H-Albion: (August 2006).

Fellowships, Grants, and Awards

  • Adele Dalsimer Dissertation Fellowship, Irish Studies Program, Boston College, 2011-2012 
  • OAH-Immigration and Ethnic History Society John Higham Travel Grant,  Organization of American Historians (OAH), 2011
  • Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy, Summer Research Stipend, 2010.
  • Boston College Graduate History Department Summer Fellowship, 2010.
  • King V. Hostick Award, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2009-2010
  • Donald J. White Teaching Excellence Award, Boston College, 2008-2009
  • Boston College Graduate Student association Research Grant, summer 2009
  • Labor and Working Class History Association Graduate Student Travel Award, 2009
  • Boston College Irish Studies Fellowship for Doctoral Studies (2005-2010
  • Fellowship from Boston College to attend Notre Dame Ireland Graduate Summer Programme (summer 2005)