Cover image for From the ward to the White House : the Irish in American politics
From the ward to the White House : the Irish in American politics
Reedy, George E., 1917-1999.
Publication Information:
New York : C. Scribner's Sons ; Toronto : Collier Macmillan ; New York : Maxwell Macmillan, [1991]

Physical Description:
212 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library E184.I6 R44 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Central Library E184.I6 R44 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Reedy, former press secretary to Lyndon Johnson and an Irish-American, offers a warm anecdotal overview of the growth of Irish-American political power. Annotation(c) 2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Reedy, an American of Irish descent, is well qualified to write this book, having been an active political participant from his days as a ward employee in Chicago to his tenure as President Johnson's press secretary. Now a Marquette University professor, Reedy is still a political observer worth noting. This anecdotal, enlightening history depicts how the Irish entered the American political scene and the nature of their legacy. There have, of course, been plenty of descriptions of Irish chicanery, thuggery, and patron~age; Reedy offers a new view that reveals the humanity and the democracy instilled by immigrant Irish peasants who forged urban politics based upon clan loyalties and a predilection for bartering (a favor traded is a vote earned). Reedy's appraisal is positive and not at all maudlin, yet sure to arouse some controversy. ~--Denise Perry Donavin

Publisher's Weekly Review

Reedy's lively overview of the Irish experience in America traces the Potato Famine immigrants from the time they were considered ``an indigestible lump'' to their eventual assimilation, as epitomized by the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy to the presidency. Much of the book deals with the Irish political machines under such urban strongmen as James Michael Curley of Boston, Thomas Pendergast of Kansas City, Edward Crump of Memphis, Richard Daley of Chicago. Reedy notes that the history of the Irish machines is shot through with thievery on a grand scale, but argues persuasively that these organizations filled a unifying role and left an enduring legacy that includes the Democratic Party's commitment to helping citizens at the bottom of the social ladder. The Irish machines, he shows, provided social services for the poor at a time when no one else was doing so. Reedy, professor of journalism at Marquette University, describes how the non-Celtic Franklin Roosevelt became ``boss of bosses'' of the machines, winning their support in return for patronage that kept them in power. Patronage, according to the author, may not have been a noble force, but it has been more effective than any other. Reedy, of Irish descent on both sides, was Lyndon Johnson's press secretary. Photos. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Reedy provides a broad-brush history and entertaining account of the role of the Irish in US politics. His thesis is that despite the graft and chicanery that accompanied some of the early Irish leaders and political machines, the Irish were the first alien culture to be fully integrated into the US. Their trek from city wards to the White House has left a considerable legacy. The pragamatism that characterizes US politics, the belief that the government has an obligation to help citizens when they are in trouble, and the concept of government as a largely nonideological "make a deal" process are rooted in the Irish character and political style. The book does not break much new ground, but students of US politics concerned with the development of political parties will find Reedy's analysis helpful. Although political scientists may challenge some of the author's conclusions that are not fully developed (e.g., he argues that it is doubtful that religion played much of a role in the 1960 campaign), the book should find its way into many introductory college courses in American politics. -W. R. Swanson, Connecticut College

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