Book General Admission

Bad Bridget

Book General Admission
Bad Bridget exhibition
Now to Summer 2025
Event type
Temporary Exhibition

Our 'Bad Bridget' exhibition tells the stories of thousands of women who left Ireland for North America between 1838 and 1918, many of which found themselves in trouble and struggling to survive. 

Through an eclectic mix of sights, sounds, smells and objects, our exhibition charts these women's experiences of migration; starting with their lives in Ireland, and the hardships that led many to migrate. Unlike female migrants from other countries, hundreds of thousands of Irish girls and women travelled alone. 'Bad Bridget' provides an insight into life at sea and the dangers and difficulties these women faced. 

Arriving in America came as a shock to many of the women—finding a job and a place to live wasn't easy. Living in poverty, and bombarded by temptations, crime never seemed far away and many of the women got swept up in it. Our exhibition shines a light on their living conditions in the tenement and the treatment they received from the authorities. 

We're sharing the story of Bad Bridget ® thanks to funding from Arts and Humanities Research Council and ongoing collaborations between National Museums NI, Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University. This exhibition is based on significant research carried out by Dr Elaine Farrell and Dr Leanne McCormick between 2015 and 2022.

We are all Bad Bridget

Like millions of young women, we left Ireland between 1838 and 1918. It was our chance to escape. We hoped for a better life in the States. Some of us chose to migrate. Some had little option but to leave. America wasn't always kind to us. We faced isolation, prejudice and poverty. We did our best to survive. Many of us did well, but some of us found ourselves in trouble with the law. 

These are our stories, each one's unique and also part of a bigger chorus. We Bad Bridgets deserve a chapter in the Irish American Story, though history often forgets about us. 

Explore the exhibition online