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Lace curtain Irish and shanty Irish are terms that were commonly used in the 19th and 20th centuries to categorize Irish people, particularly Irish Americans, by social class. The "lace curtain Irish" were those who were well off, while the "shanty Irish" were the poor, who were presumed to live in shanties, or roughly-built cabins.

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  • Lace curtain and shanty Irish
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  • Lace curtain Irish and shanty Irish are terms that were commonly used in the 19th and 20th centuries to categorize Irish people, particularly Irish Americans, by social class. The "lace curtain Irish" were those who were well off, while the "shanty Irish" were the poor, who were presumed to live in shanties, or roughly-built cabins.
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  • Lace curtain Irish and shanty Irish are terms that were commonly used in the 19th and 20th centuries to categorize Irish people, particularly Irish Americans, by social class. The "lace curtain Irish" were those who were well off, while the "shanty Irish" were the poor, who were presumed to live in shanties, or roughly-built cabins. Neither term was complimentary. Aside from financial status, the term "lace curtain Irish" connoted pretentiousness and social climbing, while the "shanty Irish" were stereotyped as feckless and ignorant. As lace curtains became commonplace in Irish-American working-class homes, "lace curtain" was still used in a metaphorical, and often pejorative, sense. In the early 20th century, James Michael Curley, a famously populist Boston politician who was called "mayor of the poor", used the term "cut glass Irish" to mock the Irish-American middle class, but the term did not catch on. Irish Americans who prospered or married well could go from "shanty Irish" to "lace curtain Irish", and wealthy socialites could have shanty Irish roots. John F. Kennedy, for example, is considered "lace curtain" even though his great-grandparents were working-class Irish immigrants.
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