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Bad Bridget
Bad Bridget

Bad Bridget

Crime, Mayhem and the Lives of Irish Emigrant Women



288 Pages, 5 x 7.75

Formats: Trade Paper

Trade Paper, $21.99 (US $21.99)

Publication Date: June 2024

ISBN 9780241994320

Rights: US

Penguin Random House UK (Jun 2024)

Price: $21.99


The untold stories of generations of Irish women who saw their American dream become a nightmare - and the trouble they got into as a result

'A captivating account of lives previously ignored' Sunday Independent

Ireland in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was not a good place to be a woman. Among the wave of emigrants from Ireland to North America were many, many young women who travelled on their own, hoping for a better life. Some lived lives of quiet industry and piety. Others quickly found themselves in trouble - bad trouble, and on an astonishing scale.

Elaine Farrell and Leanne McCormick, creators of the celebrated 'Bad Bridget' podcast, have unearthed a world in which Irish women actually outnumbered Irish men in prison, in which you could get locked up for 'stubbornness', and in which a serial killer called Lizzie Halliday was described by the New York Times as 'the worst woman on earth'. They reveal the social forces that bred this mayhem and dysfunction, through stories that are brilliantly strange, sometimes funny, and often moving. From sex workers and thieves to kidnappers and killers, these Bridgets are young women who have gone from the frying pan of their impoverished homeland to the fire of vast North American cities.

Bad Bridget is a masterpiece of social history and true crime, showing us a fascinating and previously unexplored world.


A fascinating account of an aspect of the diaspora that is rarely given attention . . . Farrell and McCormick have created a captivating account of lives previously ignoredSunday Independent

This book not only shows Farrell and McCormick's dedication to original historical research, but also their respect for the women they studied as complex individuals who were often placed in difficult situations.—RTÉ Culture Guide

An important, impeccably researched though eminently readable book that charts new territory . . . this could yet be the book of 2023—Clodagh Finn, Irish Examiner

Fascinating—Irish Times

The emigration story we mostly tell ourselves is a bright, shiny one to which bad Bridget now adds invaluable corrective shading. Its haul of previously underused primary source material will ... allow us to tell it with more nuance and complexity, and truth.—Irish Times

Bad Bridget is rich in detail and thorough in research. By giving a voice to these Irish women history has neglected, Farrell and McCormick disrupt the romanticised narrative of Irish immigration to North America that is prominent in popular culture today.’—New Statesman

"A lively, entertaining, if also at times incredibly sobering read, Bad Bridget provides a richly evocative account of the experiences of Irish female emigrants who found themselves on the wrong side of the law in nineteenth-century North America. Bad Bridget deftly handles its archival material to create a remarkably accessible social history.… this is a valuable work of social history that offers a vibrant reconstruction of a familiar terrain – Irish immigration to North America – from a fresh and enlightening perspective, that of Irish female criminals." —Christina Morin, Women's History Association of Ireland

At the heart of this riveting book, though, there are insightful glimpses into the lives of Irish women who were criminalised for trying to survive.—Irish Independent

Author Biography

Elaine Farrell is a Reader in the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen's University Belfast, and co-creator with Leanne McCormick of the Bad Bridget project.

Leanne McCormick is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Arts and Humanities at Ulster University and co-creator with Elaine Farrell of the Bad Bridget project.