FOREIGN AND FEMALE: Immigrant Women in America, 1840-1930 by Doris Weatherford

FOREIGN AND FEMALE: Immigrant Women in America, 1840-1930

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An engrossing account of the lives of European immigrant women in America during the years 1840-1930. The author begins by making clear the difference between the European tradition of fatalistic acceptance and the prevailing American philosphy of individualism and self-determination. This dichotomy was highly significant for immigrant women for whom marriage and an annual pregnancy were the sole determining factors of life. Weathefford covers almost every aspect of these women's lives: their health practices and eating habits; their homes; their working conditions and salaries. Absorbing chapters full of quotations from original letters and diaries bring to life the newfound joys or more frequently the unbearable hardships and miseries of life in a -strange land. The exploitation of these women by their husbands, families and employers is a persistent theme. The concept of assimilation or nonassimilation is covered in chapters on religion, morality, marriage, divorce and desertion, and comparisons between immigrant women and their American-born offspring demonstrate a gradual evolution and integration. However, the fallacy of a welcoming America is unveiled by documented descriptions of pernicious harassment by immigration authorities, as well as self-appointed ""moral authorities"" in the guise of church leagues and charity groups. Discrimination and prejudice effected most immigrants, but Weatherford notes it was doubly felt by the woman as her status was even lower than the male. The author's liberal use of original documents, combined with her meticulous research, makes this vibrant reading.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Schocken