Mary Eileen "Mims" Murphy Walsh was born in County Longford in 1881. She was college educated and worked in Dublin. She married Patrick "Paddy" Walsh on July 29, 1913. They immigrated to the United States in 1915. To Mims, it was an exile that she never quite got over.
An inspiring or frustrated writer, depending on which account you read, she kept a diary beginning in 1913 after marriage and continuing, through numerous books, until her death in 1964.
They came to Arizona, first the mining town of Bisbee and then to Tucson, because of her husband's respiratory issues. He had been diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1914. Arizona was likely thought to be the best curative because it was hot and dry.
She and Paddy would end up being long-term residents of Tucson, my hometown. Her first impression of the Old Pueblo wasn't quite a shining one.
"Woke up in Arizona," she wrote in her diary of March 7, 1916, "bleak enough scenery, not as bad as the Colorado desert though. Got to Tucson at 10:30. Very hot, sleepy dusty town. Men lying asleep on (alleged) grass. ... Had an awful dinner and left at 2:30."
I can well imagine her dismay. Southern Arizona is desert land, dry, dust and, even in March, hotter than most other regions of the United States. It would have been very foreign to someone used to the green, cool clime of Ireland.
They never planned on making Arizona their permanent home. They thought that they would stay here a few years, 10 at most, and return to Ireland once Paddy had "taken the cure."
Mims would oft refer to herself as being "exiled from Ireland."
Mims focus, once they located to Tucson, was her many social and political activities. They settled just west of the University area, residing there from 1919 until Paddy's death at 77 in 1963, and Mim's death at 83 the following year. Their wee house on University Boulevard would become the hub for many a ceildh. Both were recorded singing Irish folk songs that are preserved at the Library of Congress. They hosted many a literary noteworthy, both American and Irish, including distinguished authors of the likes of Dubliner Oliver Gogarty.
To learn more about the Irrepressible Mims, check out this 2001 Tucson Weekly Article: Arizona Irish
Her diaries, thousands of hand-written pages, are to be the focus of a book written by Judy Nolte Temple, a professor within the University of Arizona Department of Gender and Women's Studies and the Department of English. The book will be tentatively titled "I Have Made My Choice."
To learn more about Professor Temple and her research into Mims' diaries, checkout this 2013 U of A news article:
Photo courtesy of Margaret O’Toole