My maternal grandmother boarded a ship with her cousin, Nell, leaving Ireland to begin their lives anew in America. They were around 17, and the year was 1910, or thereabouts. The stories we hold to be true for their reasons for leaving home vary with the seasons. All of them sound reasonable and will do. My favorite is that my grandmother got in a terrible fight with her father because she frequented dances and she had fallen for a boy. My great-grandfather declared the boy to be a rounder and forbade her from going to anymore dances. She wasn't haven't it.
My grandmother could neither read, nor write. When she got to Chicago she got a job as a maid. All that I know about her time working as a maid was recounted in the ditty my mom recited to us, by way of her mom:
Yes ma'am and no ma'am
and ma'am if you please
shall I stuff the duck's arse
with the rest of the peas?