Friday, August 29, 2008

Grandma Broke the Law

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer tells of a poor Irish girl whose planned emigration to America was canceled after a man proposed marriage.

In her place, her 17-year-old sister, Hannah Friel, took over the passport and entered Ellis Island illegally.

"They looked at her passport, saw she had red hair and freckles, so they let her in," Schweitzer said.

Friel nearly starved after arriving in New York in 1909. An Irish family took her in. Then she heard about a free train ride to Montana, where she could acquire 320 acres of land to homestead. So she went on her own to the Big Sky. She settled, later married and raised five children.

"To the folks in Washington, D.C., who are anti-immigration and are telling Hispanics here illegally to go back home, I say, 'You would have sent the governor of Montana's grandmother back to County Cork, Ireland," Schweitzer said. [Link]


In 1954, two years before she died, Hannah is on the Queen Elizabeth returning from England, perhaps having visited Ireland. She had 4 pieces of luggage and a US passport.

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