“Now and then I bring home stuff for the kids to read if I think they will find it interesting or will convey some lesson,” explained her father, Michael Fried. “Sometimes they’ll read something if I suggest it. Nothing has ever come of any of these things other than this one.”
For years, it had been reported that in the 1800s and early 1900s, many companies in the U.S. had signs reading “No Irish Need Apply," or NINA. However, Jensen wrote, “Irish Catholics in America have a vibrant memory of humiliating job discrimination, which featured omnipresent signs proclaiming ‘Help Wanted—No Irish Need Apply!’ No one has ever seen one of these NINA signs because they were extremely rare or nonexistent.”
When Rebecca Fried read the article, she found Jensen's theory hard to believe. “Just for the fun of it, I started to run a few quick searches on an online newspaper database that I found on Google," she said. The result? She quickly found dozens of newspaper listings with the phrase, “No Irish Need Apply.” “I was really surprised when I started finding examples of NINA ads in old 19th-century newspapers pretty quickly,” she said.
Her research also showed that there were also plenty of NINA signs in shop windows as well. This was despite Jensen's assertion that “The fact that Irish vividly ‘remember,’ NINA signs is a curious historical puzzle.” It turns out the real puzzle is why Jensen was so quick to doubt the signs' existence.
Fried was able to disprove a college professor's entire theory, simply by doing some internet research. Next, to find out if her research was noteworthy, she contacted Kerby Miller, a retired history professor from the University of Missouri. “We didn’t know who to contact,” Fried said. “But we saw that Professor Jensen’s article cited Professor Miller as someone who had erroneously believed in NINA, so we thought he might be a good person to try.”
Miller then read Fried's thesis and was blown away. Miller advised her as to what a scholarly article should look like, but said the work was still all hers. “She didn’t need any help from me on what she did,” he said.
On July 4, 2015, Fried's research went public. That was when the Oxford Journal Of Social History published the paper, “No Irish Need Deny: Evidence for the Historicity of NINA Restrictions in Advertisements and Signs.”
However, after the article was published, Jensen himself responded in the comments section. “I’m delighted a high school student worked so hard and wrote so well,” he said. However, he added that, “No, she did not claim to find a single window sign anywhere in the USA.”
At the time of her successful take-down of Jensen's article, Fried had still not entered high school. “I’ve become really interested in history through this process, and I think that would be an incredibly fascinating career path,” she said. But whether that's her long-term career path, she said, “it’s too early to tell.” After all, she's got time to figure it out.