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Cultural Frontier, A - Ethnicity and the Marketplace in Charlotte, Vermont, 1845 - 1850

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In the 1840s, significant numbers of both French-Canadian and Irish immigrants began appearing in Charlotte, Vermont, for the first time. Desperately poor, often illiterate, and, in the case of the French, sometimes unable to speak English, these economic refugees sought to find places for themselves in a society that was neither newly settled nor undergoing burgeoning urbanization. For the most part they became employees, such as servants, day laborers, and farm hands. The French-Canadian and Irish immigrants constituted a new working class in Charlotte's social structure. They lacked access to the primary means of economic mobility - land - available to first-generation settlers, and that alone placed them outside of accepted social norms. The new immigrants often spent their lives in a struggling "frontier" existence, an existence overlaid almost imperceptibly on a settled, market oriented community. In addition, they were foreign, Catholic, and from societies traditionally despised by the English, set apart from Yankee society (and from each other) by culture as well as class. Scattered throughout a town that had always lacked a true center, unable to form homogenous ethnic neighborhoods, lacking even a church until 1858, they either had to cross a cultural frontier or remain permanent outsiders. Presented by Kevin Thornton, Adjunct, History, UVM.

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