February 18, 1847

Bostonians Respond to Irish Famine

Greater Boston

On this day in 1847, Boston's leading citizens held a meeting at Fanueil Hall in response to news of the famine devastating Ireland. With the failure of the potato crop several years in a row, tens of thousands of Irish peasants were suffering from malnutrition, disease, and exposure. Between 1847 and 1851, 1,000,000 Irish men, women, and children died. As people in Boston realized the enormity of the disaster, donations poured in. The city's Catholic community sent $150,000 to the famine-stricken country. A relief committee collected 800 tons of food and clothing and persuaded the U.S. government to allow a fully-loaded warship to sail on a mercy mission from Boston to Ireland.

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