Mim and Paddy Walsh in 1916. Photo by: uanews.org

Irish woman emigrant kept secret diary for five decades in Arizona


Mim and Paddy Walsh in 1916. Photo by: uanews.org

A  diary covering 50 years of an Irish immigrant’s life in Arizona is part of a book being written by University of Arizona professor Judy Temple.

Mary Eileen Murphy Walsh and Patrick moved to Bisbee and later Tucson after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in the early twentieth century. Mim began the journal in 1913 when the Walshes were married and filled multiple volumes until her death in 1964. In her diary she kept records of her daily life, local and national events, but also her disappointment in never becoming a published author and her desire to return to Ireland.

Temple, who is a professor in the University of Arizona’s Gender and Women’s Studies Department and the Department of English is currently doing research for the book about the couple. She said about Mim, “She’s in constant contact with her Irish family . . . one relative says she’s in exile in the United States and yet she and her husband chose to to come to the United States so it’s an interesting tension between having to leave Ireland for his health and yet longing perpetually for Ireland.”

Over the past three years Temple has been transcribing and researching Mim’s diary for research for a book she is writing about the couple. She is also doing other research for the book and said, “I would love to have more information about the Walshes from people who remembered them, people who had interactions with them.”

The Walshes were popular within academic circles, attending events and parties with University of Arizona faculty, even if they did not completely fit in. They belonged to a different socioeconomic class than their peers and this caused some tension. Temple said about this, “I think there was a lot of resentment with the idea that they did not have the economic ease or long summer vacations that their friends did.”

After her husband’s death in 1963 Mim started writing letters on his office stationery. She wrote 293 of them expressing her mourning and sense of loss. Temple described them as “a wonderful record of mourning and loss of mobility and independence and faith. They were just fabulously beautiful.”

The multi-volume journal came to the Arizona Historical Society after Mim gave it to her close friend and Arizona Pioneers Historical Society past director Yndia Smalley Moore shortly before her death. The journal had been sealed for 25 years following Walsh’s death in 1964 because of “sensitivity about still-living people,” which included many prominent people living in Tucson.


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