25 September 2013
The Life of Immigrant Women in Late-19th and Early-20th Century America The United States of America is one of the most diverse countries in the entire world. It has gained diversity not merely through race, but through religion, ethnic background, and through the ever-dynamic shift of America. Some of the most dramatic and rapid changes occurred in the late nineteenth century following the Civil War. As the United States began to industrialize, wave upon wave of immigrants poured into the country’s borders in search of religious, political, or, more often than not, economic freedom. To the outside world, the United States began to be seen as our Pledge of Allegiance suggests is: a land of the free. “’America is a free country’ one Polish immigrant stated…’you don’t have to be a serf to anyone…freedom and prosperity are enjoyed by the people of the United States.’”1 Despite these immigrant hopes of freedom and prosperity, America was only just beginning to leave behind its roots of slavery; racism and prejudice were still in the air. While African-American men were being given their permission to vote, white women still struggled for that freedom. Immigrants faced dilemmas from some radical white women. “Feminists argued that native-born white women deserved the vote more than non-whites and immigrants.” 2 The struggles of being an immigrant were difficult enough, but to be a woman as well during that era was unlike any other barrier to freedom and inequality at the time. The novel Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska, an immigrant who lived during that era, discusses what life was like for her demographic during her time through the eyes of a Jewish immigrant girl. Immigrant women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century faced a slew of harrowing challenges as they faced a changing America. One of the biggest challenges that immigrant women had to face was exceedingly poor living
Cited: Foner, Eric . Give Me Liberty! - An American History, seagull 3e. 3rd. 2. New York, NY: W W Norton , 2012. 546-713. print. The Power and the People, episode 4 of New York: A Documentary Film, Steeplechase Films, 1999, PBS home video. Yezierska, Anzia . Bread Givers, A Novel. New York, NY: Persea Books, INC, 2003. print.