Róisín Campbell was eighteen when she stepped off a boat in New York Harbor in the summer of 1870. She knew little of the world beyond what she’d seen in her small town in County Limerick, Ireland, and what she’d read in the novels she devoured when her chores were done. She knew no one in New York other than her cousin Jimmy Regan and Michael Henry, a dapper bachelor she met on board who would become her confidante and advisor.
Róisín receives service training from the Sisters of Mercy and is hired as a maid in the wealthy Geherty household. Jealousy, misunderstanding, and the strictures of social class lead to her dismissal and ultimate barring from work in the fashionable homes. A series of fateful events eventually find her training as a nurse at a clinic for the Irish poor where her life will change forever. When her younger sister arrives from home, unwed and heavy with child, Róisín is faced with decisions she never imagined.
Set at the dawn of the Gilded Age, this is the story of a young Irishwoman who comes to America with nothing but determination and who finds not only herself and her calling, but also love in the heart of a good woman and in the soul of an innocent child.
Thankfully, Dr. Doyle granted Róisín leave to avoid work so she could see to what needed to be done regarding Diarmaid. So once her meeting with Mrs. Meade was over, a tired and hungry Róisín Campbell returned to her apartment, looking forward to seeing her nephew.
Several days later, as she approached the door to the building after running errands, she heard, “Róisín.”
She turned and saw Elizabeth. Elizabeth Geherty. Who should have been at Bellevue.
“I left the program.”
It took a moment, or three, for Róisín to understand. She could not believe it.
“I want to help you.”
“Of course, you cannot do it.”
“Of course, I can, and I have.”
“Lizzie. You would be throwing everything you have worked for away.”
“I can be a nurse at the clinic. You have learned more there than I ever could at Bellevue. I am more of a nursemaid than a nurse, much as I love my friends and Sister Bowdin and Sister Taylor.”
“But it probably won’t work.” The two went to Róisín’s room and sat. Róisín told Elizabeth that she had obtained a lease on a two-bedroom apartment with servants’ quarters in a new apartment building in the twenties. She was pretending it was all thanks to Mr. Henry, but the bulk of the rent was agreed to by the Meades, who happened to live on the same block and who happened to share access to a private park on the corner. Róisín did not care that her living there would rely on their continued kindness. They were his grandparents, likely the only ones he would ever have the chance to know. Her parents knew of what happened with Sophie and Diarmaid from Róisín’s letters, and her mother sent her sympathies and prayers. But they were thousands of miles away and always would be.
Elizabeth, after noting she liked Meade’s parents infinitely more than she liked Meade, pursued her argument.
“Being with you accomplishes several things. First, it gives you more stability in the apartment. The Gehertys may not be what they once were, but they are still respectable, in part, unfortunately, thanks to my sister. But there is a second reason. If it is known that I am your flatmate, how would it look for Mrs. McNabb to try to upset the apple cart? Even she could not be so vindictive. Besides from what I hear Mr. McNabb has long since found other woman on whom to shower his lusts.”
Róisín did not know this and did not care to know this. Mary had long needed no justification for her hatred.
“It may not work. The Meades may withdraw their support and you may have to vacate these premises childless and return to the clinic. But I could move there with you. Don’t you see? I could be with you.”
The two looked at one another. Róisín did not realize it, but she had no answer to Elizabeth’s final point.
So, a nervous Elizabeth gave up at Bellevue. The other girls and Sisters Bowdin and Taylor understood, and all were sad to see Elizabeth Geherty leave. But leave she did, just in time to move her things into the second bedroom in the new apartment.