One of my most treasured belongings is a set of lace snowflake ornaments tatted by my grandmother. The history of Irish lace is closely linked to the Great Famine of the 1840’s when British laissez-faire policies destroyed, some say deliberately, the native Irish population. The lace, worn by the wealthiest women across Europe, was made by some of the poorest women in Ireland. It was a cottage industry largely founded by female philanthropic leaders who recognized the failure of relief measures. Lace-making offered rescue, not just for women and girls crafting the lace, but for entire families. It was this delicate, beautiful material that kept families alive. Many people, perhaps most, in the Irish diaspora are descendants of those survivors.
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