The Literature on Women Immigrants to the United States [a]

Dorothea Schneider, Dept. of Sociology, University of Illinois

Mars 2003


The Re-Emergence of women Immigrants as social History and Literature
The New Immigration and New Paradigms
Women Immigrants and Literature

Introduction : Predecessors

The Classic paradigms of Immigrant History

“I once thought to write a history of immigrants to America. Then I discovered that the immigrants were American history.” declared Oscar Handlin in 1951[1]. In subsequent years, Handlin would make sure that this motto became part of the public consciousness of historians through his numerous writings. But Handlin and other pioneers histories of U.S. immigration, though still classic standards in the field, read like incomplete accounts of the whole story because throughout women are almost entirely absent from the story. “Most histories of immigrants in the United States begin as experiences of migratory men disguised as genderless humans”, writes historian Donna Gabaccia[2]. In classic accounts, women are mentioned only occasionally, for example to highlight the crisis that traditional family relationships undergo[3].

Forebears: Women Immigrants and the Chicago School of Sociology.

The fact that Handlin, and others paid scant attention to women is remarkable because women immigrants had actually been the subject of a rather lively scholarship during the early 20th century. Jane Addams and Lillian Wald, for example, were not only both founders of settlement houses in the United States, they were also prolific writers whose publications paid much attention to the women immigrants under their care[4]. In the shadow of the settlement movement, emerged a group of female social scientists who made the lives of migrant and immigrant women the subject of their studies as sociologists and social workers. Caroline Ware’s Greenwich Village, and Grace Abbott’s work in general, to cite just two examples, are focused on the lives of working class immigrant women and their thorough research and crisp prose makes these volumes highly useful and readable to this day[5]. Some of the pioneers of women’s social science studies became specialists in one ethnic group or another. Emily Balch focused mostly on immigrants from Bohemia and Eastern Europe, Louise Odencrantz on Italians, Mary White Ovington wrote on female black migrants into Northern Cities[6]. Chicagoan Sophonsiba Breckinridge did extensive research on the relationship between immigrant women’s private sphere — the family — and the public world of citizenship and political participation which these women entered only reluctantly[7].
None of these studies were conceived as histories, they were ethnographic and sociological portraits of a specific contemporary community. Because of their rich array of observations and relatively unprejudiced assessments, they hold up well as social history. Though in their own time, these works were not paradigm setting. Rather than outlining sweeping theoretical insights, the early studies on women immigrants and migrants, advocated selective intervention of reformers and public agencies, and presented an ideal of involved citizenship as the desirable goal for immigrants and reformers alike. The women authors of the Chicago School and settlement movement also labored under institutional constraints which did not allow them to form “schools of thought” or promulgate their message in a wider academic context on a long-term basis[b]. Nevertheless, as a result of these studies, the presence of women immigrants as actors in their own right and as subjects for research became established rather early on.

The Re-Emergence of women Immigrants as social History and Litterature

Early Ethnic History of the 70s

As with social history in general, women’s history and immigrant history did not take a prominent place in American historical scholarship between the late 1930s and the late 1960s, as the academic focus shifted, influenced by cold war concerns, to political and diplomatic history. When social history did re-emerge, mostly with a social science methodology focused on community studies and working class history, the field remained at first centered on the “lives of men”. This is particularly evident in works which appeared between the 1950s and the early 1970s, such as Stephan Thernstrom’s paradigm setting Poverty and Progress, which studied social and economic mobility among New England’s working class immigrants, Moses Rischin’s, The Promised City, and Irving Howe’s World of Our Fathers, a study of Jewish immigration, with a focus on New York; Herbert Gans’ Urban Villagers (a sociologist’s analysis of an Italian ethnic neighborhood in Boston), Rudolph Vecoli’s seminal article “Contadini in Chicago” and many others[8]. These new works put the focus on the migrant, the working class newcomer and the neighborhood. Class and ethnicity were the primary modes of analysis. Gender was not articulated. Gender differences continued to be subsumed under the rubric family life or appeared in the discussion of intergenerational or marital relations. In a way, this presented a step back from the earlier works of the Progressive tradition mentioned above.

Ethnic group studies w. women focus

Two trends converged to change these paradigms gradually by the 1970s: 1. scholars re-discovered the writing of the earlier generation of women on the immigrant experience, and 2. labor historians especially, embraced the history of immigrants in general and of women in particular as part of the history of the North American working class. These developments were closely connected to the emergence of women’s history in general and of feminist literature and fiction writing as well. This renaissance led to the re-discovery and re-publication of a host of older literary and scholarly writings by women immigrants, and about women immigrants. Many of the Chicago School monographs were also re-printed and re-issued[c].
Among immigrant historians the focus on women led to a host of survey books on women immigrants, published mostly in the 1970s and early 1980s and the beginnings of a historiography of women’s immigrant history. A few of the surveys tried to provide a synthetic overview[9]. But most of the works told the history of European women immigrants within just one immigrant or ethnic group, usually immigrants from Europe[10].
In many cases, such studies lacked a clear thematic focus, the topic was new and the source material still sparse. Hasia Diner’s book on Irish women immigrants, Erin’s Daughters in America, highlights the problems of such survey studies which have to merge the traditional focus of women immigrants on family and childrearing with the new realities of being breadwinners and single wage earners in an urban environment[11]. Without a clear thematic direction, these two topics can appear together without much analytical connection. Similar blandness characterizes Rudolph Glanz’ thorough and lengthy two volume study The Jewish Woman in America. Glanz’ history fills in the story of female Jewish immigrants with much detail, but in many ways his work differs little from that of authors before him whose interest focused on immigrant men. No thematic shift occurs in Glanz’ books, when compared to comprehensive studies which focused on male immigrants.
The book by Charlotte Baum, Paula Hyman and Sonya Michel of the same title as Glanz (!) provides an interesting contrast in how differing perspectives shaped completely different survey books on the same topic. Baum, Hyman and Michel’s work published only months before Glanz’, is conceived within the context of the then emergent second feminist movement, and these authors want us to understand womens history as a part of womens liberation. Their study deals with a similar array of topics as other books but here the thematic emphasis is on women’s self assertion, and on the female immigrants building a world of their own. Conventional settings and themes (from books on male immigrants) such as the steam bath, the shnorrer, the union meeting, all are transformed into an immigrant women’s sphere which underline their self-assertion in the New World. The theme of gender roles and gender imagery was also taken up by other scholars, again, mostly in the literature on Jewish immigrants women, during the 1980s[12]. Subsequent survey books on immigrant groups- men and women— often either covered women in one or two specific chapters (these chapters mostly focused on family life and women’s work) or they focused on women immigrants almost exclusively and infused the entire history of women immigrants with a feminist perspective underlining the emancipatory message of immigrant pioneers, as we will see in the works discussed below[13].
From the mid-1970s historiographic and critical assessments of the emerging field became numerous enough to spawn historiographic assessments of the field at regular intervals. Beginning with Maxine Seller’s call for a re-evaluation of women immigrants that would lead away from stereotypes of passivity and suffering, the historiographic study of women immigrants has spawned a number of interesting reviews, most importantly by the historian Donna Gabaccia, whose book, From the Other Side, summarized the scholarship on women immigrants very concisely and aptly in the early 1990s[14].

The Working Class and Women Immigrants

The scholarship that most clearly dominated the historiography of women immigrants in the 1980s and 1990s was focused on the world of work, paid and unpaid. To a significant degree such studies were connected to the large wave of labor history monographs which had begun to be published in the 1970s. Some of these studies focused on immigrant families (where women played an important role) others on women (though not necessarily only on women immigrants) in female-dominated industries. Among the earliest and influential studies on families and women in the family economy was Virginia Yans-McLaughlin’s monograph Family and Community: Italian Immigrants in Buffalo:1880-1930[13]. Unlike other studies on working families (such as those of Tamara Hareven[16]) Yans McLaughlin focuses on the interplay between the culture of origin (in this case Italians) and its influence on the labor market choices and behavior of men and women. It yields significant insights into the way Italian women reconciled the contradictory pressures from family (to retain traditional roles) and the workplace (to assume a new more public role). A related book, Donna Gabaccia’s From Sicily to Elizabeth Street, enriches these insights by looking at women (and men) in a highly diverse metropolitan economy[17]. Similar studies were published on German women, by Christiane Harzig (unfortunately in German only) and, to a more limited degree, Laura Anker[18].
Gabaccia devotes almost half of her study to the description and analysis of family and work life in the Sicilian village of origin of her New York group. Such truly comparative studies of migrant families have remained rare, especially in the historical literature, though we have now a number of comparative ethnographies on transnational migrants from the Caribbean and Central America which have been written by anthropologists and sociologists[19].
The appearance of women workers not just within families and the household economy but also as part of the narrative of U.S. labor history of autonomous workers has formed a particularly important branch upon which the field of immigrant women’s history has thrived for decades to come. Two books about the history of women workers in the United States were very influential in this regard, although they did not explicitly structure their narrative around the lives of immigrant women: Thomas Dublin’s Women and Work and Christine Stansell’s City of Women[20]. Both works, as well as an article by Carol Groneman on Irish American wage workers, set the stage for a large body of literature on women wage earners within metropolitan and small town economies[21]. Dublin’s study was pace-setting by putting wage-earning single women at the center of the inquiry, outlining how they were economically independent, while at the same time embedded in a larger family context. Even though families were often physically absent, they were present as norm setters and shapers of expectations for these early industrial workers. Stansell’s work describes the lives of women wage earners in New York City — many of them immigrants — not just in the context of their economic and social position. The study also throws important light on the need to these women to define and negotiate their moral and sexual lives in a larger public sphere of the metropolis. Gronemann’s article, “She Earns like a Child, She Pays as a Man” showed that residents of New York’s notorious “Five Points” slum were not the morally or physically degenerate wretches of the popular imagination. Instead, they were working mothers who were caught in the vise of low-wage female occupations and high cost metropolitan living. Though these authors made mention of immigrant women and integrated their experience of migration and adjustment in the new world of industrial and service work into their narratives, the distinct experience of cultural difference lived by women from specific foreign backgrounds did not take center stage in these stories. Instead, Dublin, Stansell and other authors of books on labor and the origins of the American working class tended to emphasize the inter-ethnic, gender and class-based solidarity of all workers, men and women.
Within a few years after the appearance of Dublin’s and of Stansell’s book, the world of immigrant women’s work was described in many new studies which gave this field a many-faceted historiography. Most of these new studies were community studies with a specific geographical and occupational focus[22]. Among occupational groups the world of the women textile and garment worker has received the most attention. Other parts of the scholarly literature describe immigrant women in domestic service and women in agriculture and agriculture-related occupations.

Women Textile Workers

The lives of women immigrant textile workers over many generations are chronicled in Louise Lamphere’s From Working Daughters to Working Mothers[23]. Unlike the earlier works cited above, in which the story and life of immigrant women was inserted into a general narrative of class consciousness and collective organization, Lamphere made the lives of immigrant women over many generations the center of her scholarship. As in many New England industrial towns, “Centerville’s” mill hands were women who originally came from Francophone Canada, followed later by Portuguese and Colombian women. Generational sequence thus brought ethnic change, with work and industrial working class status being the constants. As Lamphere outlines, the adjustment to a full-time industrial work schedule on top of the traditional obligations of family and child care was handled somewhat differently by women from different ethnic groups, dependent in part by their backgrounds and beliefs. Less specifically concentrated on one geographic location but with a focus on women in the garment trades is Susan Glenn’s study, Daughters of the Shtetl[24]. Glenn not only builds on the work on Jewish women begun by Hyman and others, but also continues the scholarship on immigrant women within the new labor history. Social, sexual and cultural identities are part of her narrative as is the struggle for union recognition and other forms of political activism which these women engaged in. Glenn is also interested in the question why Jewish women in particular were so visible in transforming the traditional spheres assigned to immigrant women[25]. Garment and textile work continues to be the preserve of women immigrants in the United States, though the succession of twentieth century immigrant groups, especially in the garment workshops of New York and Los Angeles, has, by and large, not received the same scholarly attention as the nineteenth and early twentieth century immigrants[26]. Literature on Puerto Rican, Dominican, Chinese and Mexican garment workers has shown little historical perspective which would connect the lives of these modern day sweatshop workers with their sisters of an earlier time[27].

Domestic Workers/Maids

Domestic work, like garment making, was and is almost exclusively a preserve of immigrant women in most parts of the United States. As Stansell points out in City of Women, this type of service work had particular implications for social and cultural assimilation, class consciousness and social mobility of different immigrant women. Two general histories of domestic labor in the United States, by Faye Dudden and David Katzman provide a good analytical and historic framework for understanding domestic service in the context of the female labor market and the shifting structure of middle class households in North America[28]. For women domestics, public and private sphere, work and free time was merged in ways that were specific to their occupation. For immigrant women, the cultural distance to their employers were a constant source of friction but also a necessity to maintain status for their employers. Assimilation therefore took place in the context of often unusually intense class and cultural conflict which would rarely be openly visible, however. Irish immigrant women were particularly dominant as domestic servants in most parts of the nineteenth century United States, and this group is discussed in Hasia Diner’s Erin’s Daughters (as well as in Stansell’s and Gronemann’s work). A recent voluminous literature on the history of women immigrants and domestic service has further added to this field of inquiry with numerous important monographs[29]. This newer literature also has gone a long way to explain why, for example, some immigrant groups sent their daughters rarely into domestic work (Italians, Jews and Chinese come to mind) while members of other immigrant and migrant groups others, such as Irish, German, Scandinavian, Dutch, Japanese, African-American and Latino Women were and are frequently employed as domestics[30].
The literature on women immigrant domestics today continues to flourish as a number of important books and articles on African American and Latino women and domestic service show[31]. Unfortunately, only Elizabeth Clark Lewis’ Living In, Living Out, a book on African American women migrants into Washington D.C., has a distinct historical cast. It can serve as a link between studies on contemporary domestics (usually women of color from the Americas) and past generations who were likely to be African American or from the European immigrant working class. Clark Lewis' book takes up the themes first raised by Stansell and weaves them into the story of women from a racially defined and thus more rigidly disenfranchised group of women workers. There are many parallels between Clark Lewis’ work and more contemporary studies of women domestics such as Julia Wrigley’s Other People’s Children and Mary Romero’s Maid in the U.S.A. which focus on contemporary Mexican immigrant women who are the majority of domestic household workers in the American West and Southwest today. The importance of the contemporary literature lies in the way it analyzes the way cultural and class conflict plays out within the parameters of race and culture for Mexican Americans and other Latinas. Writings about racial identity as much as gendered transitions have become one of the main themes in both labor and immigrant history in the past two decades. The research on women domestics connects these themes and reinserts the studies into the mainstream of social history.

Agriculture and related occupations

Whereas the literature on women domestics continues to grow and thus link the history of older groups with the sociology of newer generations of women immigrants and migrants, the studies of women in agriculture and agriculture-related occupations is much smaller and offers fewer broad connections[32]. Linda Schelbitzki Pickle’s portrait of German origin women in rural Nebraska, Contented Among Strangers ,carefully delineates a world of quiet and slow adjustment among women immigrants, so different from the much noisier and faster-paced world described in studies of women in metropolitan areas of the United States[33]. A similar focus on rural communities and traditional family structure prevails in Valerie Matsumoto’s Farming the Home Place, a study of Japanese immigrants in rural California[34]. Though Matsumoto does not focus on women (but on community and family) gender relations are part of her study. Vicky Ruiz’ Cannery Workers, Cannery Lives and Patricia Zavella’s Women’s Work and Chicano Families take a somewhat different approach to agricultural workers, more in the Carey McWilliams tradition, in that they consider these women a type of industrial worker whose struggle is for group solidarity and union recognition. Especially Ruiz focuses on the building of a female dominated union and whereas Zavella’s book is more an ethnography of a community of workers[35]. Karen Leonard’s book, Making Ethnic Choices, on Punjabi immigrants (who were male, but who married Mexican women and worked jointly with them in the fields) and Sucheng Chan’s work on Chinese immigrants in Western agriculture also have important elements to add to the none too rich historiography of women immigrants in agriculture-related occupations[36]. Most of these recent works tend to focus on family and community, not primarily on women. Studies similar to Schelbitzki Pickle’s are still needed with a historical perspective and a focus on Mexican, or Chinese women in the West.

Women activists/unions

A significant number of monographs and articles especially during the 1970s and 80s emphasized the visibility of women in their neighborhood organizations and as politically prominent members of the union movement[37]. Such books highlight the role of women immigrants as activists side by side with men, though with voices of their own. Many of these studies focus on women in unions and in community settings, usually selecting 19th century immigrants from Europe. Listings of books and articles on women immigrants’ “work” in the public sphere take up a significant part of Gabaccia’s bibliography, Women Immigrants in the United States[38].
Given the large number of monographs and articles on specific persons or organizations, the paucity of survey or synthetic studies on immigrant women in the political sphere is remarkable, however. The few exceptions are either largely inaccessible, because they are dissertations which have not been published or, like, Mari-Jo Buhle’s Women and American Socialism — are more general works with only some chapters devoted to immigrants[39]. The large number of biographies of individual immigrant women activists also supply a crucial source of information on politically active immigrant women[40]. But critical synthetic studies on immigrant women in the American trade union movement and the American suffrage movement have yet to be written. Thus the image that immigrant women were a group largely uninvolved in public life beyond occasional neighborhood activism, remains predominant.

Sexuality, Leisure, Consumption

The emphasis on work and political activism characterizes the majority of books and articles about women immigrants which appeared in the 1970s and 1980s. A smaller, though significant body of work deals with women’s response to emergent mass culture and leisure pursuits in urban America during the first half of the twentieth century. Thus Kathy Peiss’ well-known study, Cheap Amusements, and similarly Lewis Ehrenberg’s Steppin Out, are both books that deal with leisure culture of New York’s working class with a special focus on women in the late nineteenth century[41]. Unfortunately, neither book focuses specifically on immigrant women or on the responses of different ethnic groups to the rise of commercialized public leisure for women. Elizabeth Ewen’s Immigrant Women in the Land of Dollars does focus on the world of entertainment and culture experienced and used by immigrant women who found new avenues of self-expression and community life in America[42]. But for the of ethnic culture, there are only a few studies which both emphasize and critically examine the relationship of women immigrants to popular culture and provide insights into the beliefs and behaviors specific ethnic groups. Three unsentimental yet entertaining studies of popular culture are Andrew Heinze’s Adapting to Abundance and Jenna Weisman Joselit’s book, The Wonders of America. As well as Robert Orsi’s book on religion and Italian Americans[43]. The first two books focus specifically on Jewish immigrants and have some chapters on women as consumers. While Weisman and Heinze do not adopt a gendered perspective throughout, their chapters on making a home and on women and the display of social status through consumer goods are a definite addition to this specific part of women immigrants’ history. Especially Joselit, a historian of material culture, provides an excellent example of understanding history through objects with her numerous photographs and illustrations. Robert Orsi’s work deals with devotional culture of Italian immigrants and Italian women in particular — a rich, yet, for the most part insufficiently covered field in general. Since Orsi’s book was published, few works on immigrant religion have appeared and even fewer that have a clearly gendered perspective[44].


The new immigration and new paradigms

The fight for emancipation and the gender paradigm

It is only gradually, since the late 1980s, that the paradigms of women immigrant history have shifted away from European groups and, thematically, away from the working class history model. By and large, the new research has focused on the growing immigration of East and South Asians, Central and Latin Americans and immigrants from the Caribbean. In this context, social scientists have put the themes of transnationalism and gendered assimilation at the center of their inquiries. Often, their studies have retained a strong emphasis on cultural and social assimilation and economic mobility as well — often at the expense of historical perspective[d]. At the same time, the work of anthropologists and sociologists has also been more likely to be truly comparative (in a geographic sense) than the research of historians.
But there have also been important connectors between the new research on post-1965 migration and the older, largely historical literature. For one, the topic of racial definitions, racial difference and discrimination, a theme important for scholars of immigration for a long time, has been re-validated in the context of the newer studies[e]. The historical oppression of Mexican Americans and Chinese immigrants based on their racial assignment and attributes had been the theme for historians of Mexican, Chinese and Caribbean America for many decades and in both cases the connection to an older historiography on these immigrants is strong[45]. The tenor of these studies had always been the struggle for emancipation, for true citizenship within the “white Republic” of the United States[46]. Early works on minority immigrant women, for example Mirande and Enriquez’ La Chicana, combined feminist theory, and poetry with discussions of Chicano family life and history. This and other books on Chicanos, did not differentiate between the experiences of immigrant and second generation or native Latinas[47]. Similarly Bryce Laporte’s and Delores Mortimer’s anthology Female Immigrants to the United States: Caribbean, Latin American and African Experiences, meld the stories and histories of women of color in general[48]. Instead of providing in depth research, such books were written as contributions to the emancipatory quest of women of color in the United States. Among newer books, as among the classics, the narrative of emancipation and struggle against oppression lends the dominant story line to the history of East Asian and Latino immigrants to this day[49].
Questions of racial self-definition and racial categorizations by others form a complex interplay with questions of gender in the study of Afro-Caribbean immigrants. These immigrants are the subject of Irma Watkins Owen’s “Blood Relations” on English-speaking Caribbean immigrants, Michel Laguerre’s American Odyssey, on the Haitian Diaspora and Mary Waters’ work[50]. Laguerre’s work on Haitian families puts this group at the center of a classic migration study focused on family roles and labor market integration in the post WWII economy or metropolitan New York. Watkins Owens is most interested in the interactions between West Indian immigrants and native African Americans in Harlem. Both books do not highlight gender, though the majority female composition of this group of immigrants gives a special cast to the community[51]. Race and, to some extent, gender plays a central role in Mary Waters’ seminal, Black Identities. Waters’ study of second-generation black immigrants which was influenced by the segmented assimilation model of Portes and others, focuses on the desire for upward mobility among Caribbean immigrants who try to carve out a racial identity separate from African Americans, whom they associate with downward mobility. Gender plays an important role for Waters, since women are a majority among her interviewees and are strongly represented among the better educated migrants from the Caribbean of recent decades[52]. Unfortunately few other works on black immigrants even mention gender in their analysis, though it plays an important part in the overall description of Caribbean immigration streams.
Race and ethnic culture merge in a different way in the recent scholarship on Mexican, Dominican and other Latina women. In the Mexican case, historical scholarship is particularly rich with most of the older books following the model of other working class immigrant histories, whose subjects were geographically defined by origin. Similar community studies on Mexican-Americans have put the spotlight on family and community, mostly in the west, but also in the large cities of the Midwest. In these studies most scholars have made little distinction between immigrants and native or indigenous Chicanas[53]. Only relatively recently have scholars taken a look at the barrio’s women specifically and have analyzed their histories and identities with a focus on gender. Chief among those newer works is Pierette Hondagneu-Sotelo’s Gendered Transitions, a study of “Oakview Barrio” a community of legal and illegal Mexican immigrants in Northern California. Her book’s central focus is on what she calls the reconstruction of gender roles in the context of the migration experience. As a result of their experiences as female immigrants, women ultimately take a leading role in the consolidation of settlement of Mexican families who remain permanently in the United States[54]. The theme of re-definition of gender roles has been taken up by other scholars on recent immigrant groups as well and plays a large role in works on the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and on South Asian women. Patricia Pessar’s work, in particular has uncovered changes similar to Hondagneu-Sotelo within Dominican immigrant families: women are reluctant migrants, but once settled in the United States engage in economic strategies that make return to the Dominican Republic very unlikely[55].

Transnational families and mothering

Transnationalism, the thematic focus of much of the recent immigrant literature and cultural studies writing, emerges in a somewhat different form for women from these ethnic groups. For Mexican Americans and other Latino women, transnational practices and realities are often associated with the problems and difficulties connected to bi-furcated lives: families are separated, educational goals conflict, linguistic problems abound[56]. Grasmuck and Pessar paint a similar picture of Dominican women. Salvadoran Families, depicted in Sarah Mahler’s work, are also the sufferers rather than the beneficiaries of transnational family lives[57]. The widely accepted idea that transnationalism is an enrichment empowering women and men within immigrant cultures is not visible in this research[58].

The privileged classes in fact and fiction

The research on Cuban immigrant women, should be briefly mentioned here, because it fits neither into the classic paradigm of emancipation from oppression, nor are Cuban women seen as embedded in racial or underclass stereotypes. Instead, research has focused on economic mobility and cultural assimilation of Cubans in general, and women in particular. Cuban women immigrants were more likely to be middle class in social and economic background than other Latinas and therefore experienced more social and economic mobility than Mexican, Puerto Rican or Dominican women did[59]. The research also reflects the preoccupation with exile that still defines the Cuban community in the United States. Since exile is usually seen as a state of being defined by one’s exclusion from the nation-state at home, rather than an exclusion from social and cultural traditions and institutions in the new country, a gendered perspective is often secondary to studies of exile[60].
A status similar to Cuban immigrants in their “in-betweenness” between whites and people of color, between refugees and voluntary immigrants is occupied by immigrants from the Middle East. Today they are usually called “Arab-Americans”, emphasizing their otherness, but at the beginning of the twentieth century they were usually described as “Syrians” by scholars and writers in the United States, implying more of a Mediterranean affiliation. But it would take decades for these newcomers to be recognized as white by the United States government, so they would not fall under the Asian exclusion laws. Alixa Naff’s book Becoming American provides a history of early Middle Eastern immigrants to the United States, a group dominated by Christian Lebanese early in the century. Naff’s book does focus on the family character of the early migration -- unusual for a group where single men predominated in the early decades. The more recent work by Evelyn Shakir, Bint Arab, is more explicitly about women. Its historical perspective is provided mainly through autobiographical oral histories of Arab imigrant women of different generations[62]. Other recent works show less of a historical perspective on this fast growing group of immigrants. But even in the more presentist social science analyses, the contours of a historical development can be discerned. With their lives centered around family and their relative isolation from public life, Arab American women are today confronted with the need to earn money and venture into the public sphere for a variety of reasons in the United States. The relationship of daughters with the greater U.S. world and issues of educational access for daughters and adult women are all prominent discussion points and indicators of change within this community as they have been for other groups before them[63].
The most recent literature on immigrant communities in the United States has probably been richest in regard to East and Southeast Asian immigrants. This is in good part, because Chinese and Japanese immigration is well over a century old in the United States, and has a relatively rich trail of documents and a literature that dates back to the beginning of the twentieth century[64]. Anthony Pfeffer’s recently published study, If they don’t Bring their Women Here, explores the very earliest decades of Chinese female immigration, mostly to the West Coast[65]. Pfeffer’s theme is the attempt, successful in 1882, on the part of Federal and municipal authorities, the courts and the press— to make these women “go away”, through exclusion legislation, denial of entry and criminalization (as prostitutes). If invisibility is Pfeffer’s theme, Judy Yung’s Unbound Feet, is about visibility: this chronicle of San Francisco’s Chinese women during the first four decades of the twentieth century, makes this group visible and relates to its attempts to be visible and speak with its own voice[66]. Yung’s work is merely among the most comprehensive and recent in a number of studies on East Asian women and their families with Huping Ling’s book, Surviving the Gold Mountain, the most recent comprehensive attempt to write a history of Chinese Women in the United States. Ling’s effort is notable because it includes Chinese women in the rural United States and also offers inclusion of the Chinese in the Midwest, where small communities of Chinese persisted throughout the twentieth century. Her book also provides the best bibliography on the topic to date[67]. As a large and bi-furcated community (split into the early, heavily restricted generation that arrived before 1880 and the post 1965 immigration which encountered mostly economic, but fewer legal and social obstacles to integration) the historiography on Chinese women immigrants reflects a great diversity of perspectives. They range from the chronicles of family based private lives to the econometric studies of upward mobility[68]. The historiography of related groups, such as Japanese American women or Korean American women and Filipinas is much less diverse, with a focus on community histories and economic adaptation[69].
Since the elimination of overt national preferences in U.S. immigration law in 1965, the number of countries from which immigrants arrive has grown significantly. One large group of new immigrants is made up of women and men from Southern and Southeast Asia (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam and Korea in particular). While Southeast Asians initially came as refugees under an allotment system that stemmed from the Vietnam Era, most South Asian immigrants were admitted because of their desirable professional qualifications. In these cases, women usually came as dependents, though in the Korean and Filipino case, women were also admitted under special occupational preference categories (as nurses).
The diversity of the new Asian-American immigration is reflected in the literature. The published materials on Southeast Asian refugee groups, show that historians have so far largely still shied away from writing the histories of these newer women immigrants leaving the territory to sociologists and other social scientists as well as literary scholars for the most part. Social scientists, in turn, have put traditional immigrant themes at the center of their inquiries into the lives of Southeast Asians: initial adjustment, the struggle to maintain family cohesion and slow economic and social assimilation and upward mobility. A-women centered perspective rarely emerges in the literature on Southeast Asian Refugee immigrants. Women appear almost exclusively in the context of family life, their lives encased between the conflicting demands put on them as keepers of tradition and economic providers[70]. Only very recently have some studies on gender and sexuality appeared, as the second generation of refugees has grown to maturity on the United States[71].
The situation is different for South and West Asian immigrants many of whom arrived well-educated and English speaking. Such characteristics were rare among earlier groups of immigrants and they challenge traditional paradigms of immigration research which deal with economic and social (upward) mobility and the difficulties of first generation cultural adjustment. There are some publications which provide a survey of the lives of South Asian women within the traditional parameters of work and family, the struggle to assimilate and bring up children in the United States. But much of the newest literature on South Asians has focused on cultural traditions and transmissions, as well as on ethnic identities within the post-industrial, multi ethnic United States. The literature on South Asians in particular has emphasized continuity and adaptation of cultural practices among the first and second generation as a means to preserve ethnic identity for men and women. In general, the literature on South Asians has recognized that women experience these pressures to retain ethnicity and maintain the trajectory of assimilation differently way from men[72].
Closely related to this focus on transmission of culture and the change in social and cultural values, transnationalism also takes on a different face in the study of East and South Asians. Because the physical connection with the homeland is often not as close for South and East Asians as it is for Mexicans and other people from Central America and the Caribbean, transnationalism for East and South Asians is lived differently as well: in ethnic businesses, and neighborhoods, but also in middle class ways of socializing and organizing (in professional organizations, for example). For East and South Asians, groups whose successful economic assimilation is often taken for granted, transnational lives for women are seen as richer, more varied and successfully negotiated than the lives of other immigrant groups, such as Latinas. By and large, the struggles of South Asian women as they are depicted in the recent literature, while existential in many ways, are not focused on the bread and butter survival issues that characterized the lives of immigrants in the past and continues to dominate the existence of their Latina or Caribbean sisters. South Asian women, according to the literature extant seem to be more preoccupied with negotiating where they belong culturally as English speaking yet non-American women of color[73]. This difference in voice and views of assimilation between South Asians and many women from the Americas has not been articulated by historians, social scientists or literary critics.


Women, Immigrants and Litterature

Biographies and Autobiographies

No essay on the historiography of women immigrants in the United States would be complete without the discussion of important fictional accounts on this theme, usually written by women immigrants themselves. Women fiction writers have been popular in transmitting the story of women immigrants since before the twentieth century. Today, most courses in women’s history do include some fiction writing and many historians use the better known fictional accounts as equivalents of social history in their classrooms. Contemporary fiction on immigrants is very popular and has had a much broader impact on public consciousness about immigrants than academic teaching on the subject.
The post World War II era boom in immigrant fiction began with the re-discovery of writers, well-known to an earlier generation, such as Anzia Yezierska, Mary Antin, and Emma Goldman, all of whom wrote about the lives of Eastern Europeans, Jews and labor activists in an autobiographical mode[74]. Much of the publicity about these books was aided by the growing interest in the experience of minority women and women immigrants in general. Post World War II writers such as Paule Marshall (on the Caribbean), Monica Sone (on Japanese), Jade Snow Wong (on Chinese), whose autobiographical work was published to little acclaim in the 1950s, were also re-issued, and received much more recognition in the 1970s and 80s[75]. Some long forgotten immigrant authors also saw their works printed and published for the first time, with similar results[76].

The recent literature on women migrants

By the 1980s these rediscovered authors were joined by a new generation of fiction (rather than autobiographical) writers of novels and stories about immigrant women. Best known among them are two authors on the Chinese American experience, Maxine Hong Kingston and Amy Tan[77]. Kingston’s Warrior Woman, and Tan’s Joy Luck Club, became best sellers. The Joy Luck Club was made into a popular movie as well. Other writers include Cynthia Kodahata (on Japanese Americans), Gish Jen (on Chinese immigrants), Sandra Cisneros (on Latinas), Julia Alvarez (on Dominicans), Jamaica Kincaid (on Caribbean immigrants) and Cristina Garcia (on Cubans)[78]. It would be difficult to summarize the many diverse voices of these women writers as part of one intellectual and historiographic trend, except in the broadest terms. By and large, the earlier authors such as the Europeans and Maxine Hong Kingston are concerned with their protagonists, finding a voice or giving voice to women amid the dislocating and fractured experiences of immigration and arrival in a an alien, usually urban American environment. Later authors, mostly writers who began to publish in the 1980s, focus on the difficulties of aligning their language and understanding of the American world with those around them. These authors speak, often eloquently, but their Chinese, Spanish or Caribbean-inflected views are misunderstood or not heard by Americans. The most recent generation of writers, especially some South Asian authors, are also concerned with return to the homeland and the particular problems associated with a highly mobile class of women immigrants whose lives move back and forth as they travel to old and new homes[79]. The popularity of these authors for the general reading public seems rooted in the near universal appeal of these themes (especially for women readers), the drama of twentieth century history that forms the background to many story and the straightforward narrative style — none of these authors adopts a distinctly modernist style of writing.

The popularity of novels vs. the lack of the political voice

For the historian of immigration the popularity of fiction for those interested in teaching and learning about the history of women immigrants has been a double edged sword. On the one hand it has popularized the story of female immigration in ways, academic historians could never hope to, on the other hand, popular fiction also furthered a certain depoliticization of the field in recent decades. The political voices of women immigrants in the U.S. are now rarely the focus of scholarly research, especially among social scientists. The focus on assimilation, adaptive behavior, and transnational practices has obscured the political dimension of the past three decades of immigration to the United States and has indirectly emphasized the muffled political voice of recent immigrants both from the Americas and East Asia. Accounts of politicized immigrants in 20th century history are almost always confined to the early decades of the twentieth century. East Asian and some Latino women workers emerge at times in writings on garment and manufacturing workers in US border areas, but usually without historical references[f]. This depoliticization of immigrant history in general and women in particular, might be a sign of the general conservatism creeping into the historical and social sciences in the United States.
This trend has only partially been overcome by a reviving interest in women’s traditional and historical struggle for full citizenship rights and political participation among immigrants. Important works that emphasize this theme, such as Candice Bredbenner’s, A Nationality of Her Own, and research on gendered immigration admission practices have yet to echo more broadly in the field. Newer sociological and anthropological research with a transnational theme, often pays little attention to questions of citizenship and political rights for women as they migrate into the United States[80].

Conclusion : Recent Directions of Research

In the past twenty-five years, the field of women’s immigration history in the United States has transformed itself from a minor disciplinary sub-field to a major way of understanding one of the largest twentieth century topics for the social sciences in general: the mobility of people and its impact upon the relationship of genders. In fact, the study of women immigrants has also served as a major connector between traditional disciplines and fields of inquiry in the United States. Because this field of inquiry has spawned so much scholarship and received a lot of public attention (in part because of the prominence of fiction authors) it is now a power unto itself in terms of academic hierarchies and reflects the many sided perspectives in the field: from studies of immigrant mobility to middle class cultural adaptation to historical treatment of women activists. It is therefore difficult to discern overall directions and trends in the field in recent years.
First and foremost is the divergence of social history from the social sciences in the field of immigration studies in general. While both fields seemed to merge increasingly during the 1980s and 90s, recent trends show a greater divergence, with most social scientists hewing to the study of assimilation and mobility, whereas historians have, by and large, concerned themselves with class and ethnic consciousness within the framework of collective and political solidarity. As far as womens studies are concerned, the recent shift toward gender studies (rather than womens studies) has also begun to have interesting impulses for the history of women immigrants. As the concepts of masculinity and femininity have gradually taken center stage in social science and historical research, the focus on sexuality and identity has become much strunger in many of the newest studies. In the context of immigrant history, such concepts are still underresearched, though. But at least in some works (notably I the books of Hondagenu-Sotelo and Pessar) it has become evident that women and their history no longer provide merely the corrective for an otherwise male-dominated “neutral” perspective. Gender, as an overall organizing principle has become important in these studies, not just when it comes to investigating family roles or sexuality. Eventually, the story of women immigrants will be governed by the more dialectical and dynamic relationship which the concept of gender studies promises, even if historians, often the latecomers in these pradigm shifts, might take a while to adapt to these new frameworks.


[1]Oscar Handlin, The Uprooted: The Epic Story of the Great Migration that made the American People, (Boston, Little Brown: 1951) p, 3. [Retour au texte]

[2]Donna Gabaccia, From the Other Side: Women, Gender and Immigrant Life in the U.S., 1820-1990, (Bloomington, IN, Indiana University Press, 1992) p.2 [Retour au texte]

[3]For classic accounts that follow this patterns see: Maldwyn Allen Jones, American Immigration (Chicago, University of Chicago Press: 1960); Marcus Lee Hansen, The Atlantic Migration (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1940) ; Philipp Taylor, The Distant Magnet: European Emigration to the USA. (New York, Harper and Row, 1970). [Retour au texte]

[4]Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull House (New York, Macmillan, 1910). Lillian Wald, The House on Henry Street, (New York, Henry Holt: 1915) and by the same author, Windows on Henry Street (Boston, Little Brown, 1934). [Retour au texte]

[5]Grace Abbott, The Immigrant and the Community (New York, The Century Company: 1917), by the same author, Women in Industry : A Study in Economic History (NY, Appleton and Co. , 1910); Caroline Ware, Greenwhich Village, 1920-1930 (Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1935). [Retour au texte]

[6]Emily Greene Balch, Our Slavic Fellow Citizens (Philadelphia: Wm. Fell, 1910). Louise Odencrantz, Italian Women in Industry: A Study of Conditions in New York City, (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1919). Mary White Ovington, Half a Man: The Status of the Negro in New York (New York, Longman, 1911). [Retour au texte]

[7]Sophonsiba Breckinridge, New Homes for Old (New York: Harper Bros. 1921); Breckinridge and Grace Abott The Delinquent Child and the Home: A Study of the Delinquent Wards of the Juvenile Courts of Chicago (New York, Russell Sage Foundation, 1917). Sophonsiba Breckinridge, Marriage and the Civic Rights of Women (Chicago, University of Chicago, Press, 1931) [Retour au texte]

[8]Stephan Thernstrom, Poverty and Progress (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1964) Moses Rischin, The Promised City: New York City’s Jews, 1870-1917 (Cambridge, Harvard University Pr. 1962), Irving Howe World of Our Father’s, (New York, Harper and Row, 1976), Herbert Gans The Urban Villagers: Group and Class in the Life of Italian Americans ( New York: Macmillan 1962), Rudolph Vecoli “Contadini in Chicago: A Critique of the Uprooted, Journal of American History, 51 (1964/65) 404-17. [Retour au texte]

[9] Maxine Seller, ed. Immigrant Women, ({Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1981); less sucessful is Doris Weatherford, Foreign and Female (New York, Schocken 1986). [Retour au texte]

[10]Betti Caroli et al. The Italian Immigrant Woman in North America, (Toronto: The Multicultural History Society of Ontario, 1978); Charlotte Erickson, English Women Immigrants in America in the Nineteenth Century (London: LLRS Publications, 1983), Rudolf Glanz, The Jewish Woman in America, 2 vols. (New York KTAV Publishing House, 1976). Charlotte Baum, Paula Hyman and Sonya Michel, The Jewish Woman in America (New York: New American Library, 1975); Sydney Stahl Weinberg, The World of Our Mothers: The Lives of Jewish Immigrant Women, (Chapel Hill: U. of North Carolina Press, 1988). [Retour au texte]

[11]Hasia Diner, Erin’s Daughters in America:Irish Immigrant Women in the Ninteteenth Century (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986). [Retour au texte]

[12] See Sidney Stahl Weinberg, World of Our Mothers, as well as her article “Jewish Mothers and Immigrant Daughters: positive and negative Role Models,” Journal of American Ethnic History, 6 (2), 1987, 39-55. [Retour au texte]

[13] John Bukowzyk, And My Children did not Know me: A History of Polish Americans (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press 1987), John Bodnar, The Transplanted: A History of Immigrants in Urban America (Bloomington, Indiana University Press) 1985).; see also the near absence of any work on women and gender in John Gjerde’s historigraphic survey, “New Growth on Old Vines : The Social History of Immigration to and Ethnicity on the United States” Journal of American Ethnic History. 18 (4), 1999, 40-65.[13] [Retour au texte]

[14]Maxine Seller, “Beyond the Sterotype: A New Look at the Immigrant Woman”, Journal of Ethnic History 1 (3), 59-70; see also Donna Gabaccia , “America’s Immigrant Women- Nowhere at Home?”, Journal of American Ethnic History 8 (2) 1989, 127-133. Suzanne Sinke, “A Historiography of Immigrant Women in the United States in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries,” Ethnic Forum 9 (1-2) 1989, 122-145. Donna Gabaccia, From the Other Side: Women, Gender and Immigrant Life in the United States, 1820-1990 (Bloomington, IN: Indiana Univ. Press, 1994) . [Retour au texte]

[15] Virginia Yans-McLaughlin’s, Family and Community: Italian Immigrants in Buffalo:1880-1930. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977. [Retour au texte]

[16] Tamara Hareven, Family Time and Industrial Time The Relationship between Family and Work in a New England Industrial Community (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1982). [Retour au texte]

[17] Donna Gabaccia, From Sicily to Elizabeth Street: Housing and Social Change Among Italian Immigrants, 1880-1930. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984).[Retour au texte]

[18] Christiane Harzig, Familie, Arbeit und Weibliche Oeffentlichkeit in der Einwanderungsstadt: Deutschamerikanerinnen in Chicago um die Jahrhundertwende [Family work and the Female Public Sphere in the Immigrant City : German American Women in Chicago at the Turn of the Century] (St. Katharinen:Scripta Mercaturae, 1991); Laura Anker, “Women, Work and Family: Polish, Italian and Eastern European Immigrants in Industrial Connecticut, 1890-1940.” Polish-American Studies, 45 (2) 1988, 23-49. [Retour au texte]

[19] See also p.17ff. Sherry Grasmuck and Patricia Pessar, Between Two Islands: Domincan International Migration, (Berkeley: University of California Pr., 1991); Judith Boruchoff, The Road to Transnationalism : Reconfiguring the Spaces of Community and State in Guerrero, Mexico and Chicago, Hewlett Foundation working papers series (Chicago: University of Chicago, Mexican Studies Program, Center for Latin American Studies, 1998); Peggy Levitt, The Transnational Villagers (Berkeley : University of California Press, c2001); Sara Mahler, Salvadorans in suburbia : Symbiosis and Conflict, (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, c1995.) [Retour au texte]

[20] Thomas Dublin, Women at Work: the transformation of Work and Community in Lowell, Massachusetts, 1826-1860 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979).
Christine Stansell, City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789-1860 (New York: Knopf, 1986.)
[Retour au texte]

[21] Carol Gronemann, “She Works as a Man, She Earns as a Child : Women Workers in a Mid-Nineteenth Century New York Community”, Immigrants in Industrial America, Richard Erlich (Charlottesville: Univ. of Virginia Press, 1977) 33-46. [Retour au texte]

[22] Alan Dawley, Class and Community: the Industrial Revolution in Lynn, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1976) Carole Turbin, Working Women of Collar City : Gender, Class, and Community in Troy, New York, 1864-86 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, c1992.), Mary Blewett, Men Women and Work: Class, Gender and Protest in the New England Shoe Industry (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Pr. 1988). [Retour au texte]

[23] Louise Lamphere, From Working Daughters to Working Mothers: Immigrant Women in a New England Industrial Community (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987)[Retour au texte]

[24] Susan Glenn, Daughters of the Shtetl: Life and Labor in the Immigrant Generation (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990).[Retour au texte]

[25] Nancy Schrom Dye, As Equals and Sisters: Feminism, Unionism and the Womens Trade Union League of New York (Columbia Mo.: University of Missouri Press, 1980), Maxine Seller, “The Uprising of the Twenty Thousand”, Struggle a Hard Battle, ed. Dirk Hoerder (De Kalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1986) 280-303. [Retour au texte]

[26] Nancy L. Green, Ready-to-Wear and Ready-to-Work: a Century of Industry and Immigrants in Paris and New York (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997); see also by the same author, “Women Immigrants in the Sweatshop: Categories of Labor Segmentation Revisited,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 1996, 38(3): 411-33. See also A Needle, a Bobbin, a Strike: Women Needleworkers in America edited by Joan M. Jensen and Sue Davidson, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1984). Mary Blewett, “Deference and Defiance: Labor Politics and the Meanings of Masculinity on the Nineteenth Century New England Textile Industry,” Gender and History, 1993 5(3), 398-415. [Retour au texte]

[27] Madeleine J. Haug, “Miami’s Garment Industry and its Workers,” Research in the Sociology of Work, A Research Annual ed. by Ida H. Simpson and Richard Simpson, (Greenwhich CT, JAI Press, 1983) 173-190. Sheldon Maram, Hispanic Workers in the Garment and Restaurant Industries in Los Angeles County: A Social and Economic Profile (La Jolla, Program in US-Mexican Studies, UCSD, 1980); Patricia Pessar, “Dominicans: Women in the Household and Garment Industries”, New Immigrants in New York: ed. by Nancy Foner (New York: Columbia U. Press, 1987) 103-129. Roger Waldinger, Immigrants in the New York City Garment Industry, (Cambridge, MA: Joint Center for Urban Studies, 1982); Dean Lan, “Chinatown Sweatshops,” Counterpoint: Perspectives on Asian America, ed. Emma Gee (Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1976) 347-358; Margaret Chin, “Sewing Women: Immigrants and the New York Garment Industry”, Ph.D. Dissertation, Columbia University, 1998. Dissertation Abstracts International no. 59 (10) 1999, DA9910565; Shin Ja Um, Korean Immigrant Women in the Dallas-Area Apparel Industry : Looking for Feminist Threads in Patriarchal Cloth, (Boston : Allyn and Bacon, c1998.). [Retour au texte]

[28] Faye Dudden, Serving Women: Household Service in Nineteenth-Century America (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1983); David Katzman, Seven Days a Week : Women and Domestic Service in Industrializing America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978). [Retour au texte]

[29] Suzanne Sinke, Dutch Immigrant Women in the United States, 1880-1920, see also by the same author, “’I don’t do Windows!’Gender Roles in International Perspective — a Turn of the Century Dutch Example”, Journal of American Ethnic History 17 (2) 1998, 3-21. Silke Wehner Franco, Deutsche Dienstmaedchen in Amerika, 1850-1914, (Muenster and New York: Waxmann, 1994); Joy Lintelman, “America is the Woman’s Promised Land: Swedish Immigrant Women and American Domestic Service”, Journal of American Ethnic History 8(2), 1989, 9-23; Evelyn Nakano Glenn, Issei, Nisei, War Bride : Three Generations of Japanese American Women in Domestic Service (Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 1986). Mary Romero, Maid in the U.S.A. (New York: Routledge, 1992).[Retour au texte]

[30] One of the few articles on a non-typical group of women immigrants in domestic service is Luisa Cetti, “Donne Italiane a New York, e lavoro a domicilio”, (1910-1925), Movimento Operaio e Socialista, 7(3) 1984, 291-303. [Retour au texte]

[31] See my review “The Work that Never Ends: New Literature on Paid Domestic Work and Women of Color”, Journal of American Ethnic History, 17 (3); see also Norma Chinchilla and Nora Hamilton “Negotiating Urban Space Latina Workers in Domestic Work and Street Vending in Los Angeles”, Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, 1996, 22 (1). 25-35; Julia Wrigley, Other People’s Children (New York: Basic Books, 1995).[Retour au texte]

[32] For a survey of this theme see Walter Kamphoefner, “Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Rural Immigration and Ethnicity”, Journal of American Ethnic History, 1995 (14 (4), 47-52. [Retour au texte]

[33] Linda Schelbitzki Pickle, Contented Among Strangers: Rural German-Speaking Women and their Families in the Nineteenth Century Midwest (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996). See also Irene M. Rader, “The Experience of German Russian Pioneer Women”, Journal of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia 20(4)1997, 31-37. [Retour au texte]

[34] Valerie Matsumoto, Farming the Home Place: a Japanese American Community in California, 1919-1982 ( Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1993). Related to Matsumotos as well as other studies on California agriculture is the memoir by Korean immigrant Mary Paik Lee, Quiet Odyssey: A Pioneer Korean Woman in America, ed. with an introduction by Sucheng Chan (Seattle: University of Washington Press: 1990. [Retour au texte]

[35] Vicki Ruiz Cannery Women, Cannery Lives (Albuquerque: U. of New Mexico Press, 1987), Patricia Zavella, Women's Work and Chicano Families : Cannery Workers of the Santa Clara Valley (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987). [Retour au texte]

[36] Karen Leonard, Making Ethnic Choices: California’s Punjabi Mexican Americans (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992); Sucheng Chan, This Bittersweet Soil: the Chinese in California Agriculture, 1860-1910 (Berkeley: University of California Press, c1986). [Retour au texte]

[37] See the books cited above by Blewett, Stansell, Jensen and Dublin, also the review article by Stella DeRosa Torgoff, “Immigrant Women, The Family and Work”, Trends in History, 1982 2, (4) 31-47). [Retour au texte]

[38] Immigrant Women in the United States: A Selectively Annotated Multidisciplinary Bibliography, compiled by Donna Gabaccia, (Westport, CT, :Greenwood Press) 1989) 67-98. [Retour au texte]

[39] Mari Jo Buhle Women and American Socialism, 1870-1920 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, c1981.) also by the same author, “Socialist Women and the Girl Strikers: Chicago 1910”, Signs 1(4) 1976, 1039-1051.[Retour au texte]

[40] Among the more prominent women who wrote either autobiographies or who attracted the attention of scholarly biographers (or both) were Emma Goldman: Alice Wexler, Emma Goldman: an Intimate Life (New York: Pantheon, 1984; Mother Jones: Mary Jones, The Autobiography of Mother Jones ed. by Mary Field Parton (Chicago: Chas. Kerr, 1925) also Dale Fetherling, Mother Jones, The Miners’ Angel (Carbondale: Southern IL. University Press, 1974); and Rose Pesotta: Rose Pesotta, Bread Upon Waters (New York: Dodd Mead and Co. 1945). Many other articles and books are cited in the “Biography “ chapter of Donna Gabaccia’s Immigrant Women in the United States, p. 169-214 and in the “Autobigraphy” chapter p. 215-257. [Retour au texte]

[41] Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn of the Century New York (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986); Lewis Ehrenberg: Steppin’ Out: New York Nightlife and the Transformation of American Culture, 1890-1930, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981).[Retour au texte]

[42] Elizabeth Ewen, Immigrant Women in the Land of Dollars: Life and Culture on the Lower East Side: 1890-1925 (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1989); see also by the same author the article “City Lights: Immigrant Women and the Rise of the Movies”, Signs 5(3) 1980, 45-65 as well as “`Star Struck’:Acculturation, Adolescence and the Mexican-American Woman, 1920-1950”; Between Two Worlds: Mexican Immigrants in the United States, ed. David G. Gutierrez (Wilmington DE, Scholarly Resources, 1996). [Retour au texte]

[43] Andrew Heinze, Adapting to Abundance: Jewish Immigants, Mass Consumption and the Search for American Identity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1910), Jenna Weisman Joselit, The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewsih Culture, 1880-1950 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1994), Robert Orsi, The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, 1880-1950 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985). [Retour au texte]

[44] Kim, Ai Ra, “ The Religious Factor in the Adaptation of Korean Immigrant Ilse Women to Life in America” Ph. D. Dissertation, Drew University, 1992 (Dissertation Abstracts No. 92-13370; Ann Taves, The Household of Faith: Roman Catholic Devotions in Mid-Nineteenth Century America, (South Bend, IN, University of Notre Dame Press, 1985), Kay F. Turner, “Mexican American Home Altars: Towards Their Interpretation”, Aztlan, 13(1982) 309-322. [Retour au texte]

[45] Among the older works that pay some attention to gender are: Ricardo Romo, East Los Angeles: History of a Barrio, (Austin : University of Texas Press, 1983); Carey McWilliams, Factories in the Field; the Story of Migratory Farm Labor in California (Boston, Little, Brown and Company, 1939). Ernesto Galarza, Barrio Boy, (Notre Dame [Ind.] University of Notre Dame Press [1971]). [Retour au texte]

[46] Alexander Saxton, The Rise and Fall of the White Republic : Class Politics and Mass Culture in Nineteenth-Century America (London ; New York : Verso, 1990). [Retour au texte]

[47] Alfredo Mirande and Evangelina Enriquez, La Chicana: The Mexican American Woman, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press 1979).[Retour au texte]

[48] Delores Mortimer and Roy Bryce Laporte eds. Female Immigrants to the United States: Caribbean, Latin American and African Experiences, (Washington D.C. Smithsonian Instiution, 1981). [Retour au texte]

[49] Between Borders: Essays on Mexicana/Chicana History, ed. by Adelaida del Castillo (Encino, CA: Floricanto Press), Rodolfo Acuna, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, (New York, Harper and Row, 1988); Twice a Minority: Mexican American Women, ed. by Margarita Melville (St. Louis, C. Mosby, 1980). [Retour au texte]

[50] Irma Watkins Owens, Blood Relations : Caribbean Immigrants and the Harlem Community: 1900-1930, (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996). [Retour au texte]

[51] Michelle Laguerre, American Odyssey: Haitians in New York City, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press, 1984) also by the same author “The Impact of Migration on the Haitian Family and Household Organization”, Family and Kinship in Middle America and the Caribbean, ed. Arnaud Marks and Rene Romer, (Willemstadt/Curacao: Institute of Higher Studies in Curacao, 1978). On other Caribbean groups see Monica H. Gordon, “Caribbean Migration: A Perspective on Women”, in: Female Immigrants to the United States, ed. by Dolores Mortimer and Bryce Laporte, (Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution 1981). [Retour au texte]

[52] Mary Waters, Black Identities, West Indian Immigrant Dreams and American Realitities (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001). [Retour au texte]

[53] An exception is: Gilda Laura Ochoa, “Mexican Americans’ Attitudes toward and Interactions With Mexican Immigrants: a qualititative Analysis of conflict and Cooperation.” Social Science Quarterly 81 (1) 2000, 84-105. [Retour au texte]

[54] Pierette Hondageneu Sotelo, Gendered Transitions: Mexican Experiences of Immigration (Berkely: University of California Press, 1991). See also the article by the same author, “Oversoming Patriarchal Contraints: The Reconstruction of Gender Relations among Mexican Immigrant Women and Men”, Gender and Society 6(3) 1992, 393-415. [Retour au texte]

[55] Patricia Pessar, “Social Relations within the Family in the Dominican Republic and the United States”, Hispanics in New York: Religious, Cultural and Social Experiences, ed. by the Office of Pastoral Research (New York: Achrchdiocese of New York: 1982), Grasmuck and Pessar, Between Two Islands. [Retour au texte]

[56] Judith Boruchoff, The Road to Transnationalism : Reconfiguring the Spaces of Community and State in Guerrero, Mexico and Chicago, Hewlett Foundation working papers series (Chicago : University of Chicago: Mexican Studies Program, 1998); Peggy Levitt, The Transnational Villagers (Berkeley : University of California Press, c2001). [Retour au texte]

[57] Sarah Mahler, Salvadorans in Suburbia: Symbiosis and Conflict, (Boston : Allyn and Bacon, c1995.) [Retour au texte]

[58] For a critique of transnationalism as a concept in the research on Mexican immigrants see Devra Weber, “Historical Perspectives on Mexican Transnationalism: With Notes from Agumacutiro”, Social Justice 26 (3), 1999, 39-58. See also Christine G.T. Ho, “Caribbean Transnationalism as a Gendered Progress”, Latin American Perspectives, 26(5) 1999, 34-54. [Retour au texte]

[59] Yolanda Prieto, “Cuban Women and Work in the United States: a New Jersey Case Study”, International Migration, the Female Experience, ed. by Rita Simon and Caroline Bretell (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Allenheld, 1985) 95-112, Cordelia Reimers “A Comparative Analysis of the Wages of Hispanics, Blacks, and Non-Hispanic Whites”, Hispanics in the U.S. Economy, ed. by Marta Tienda and George Borjas, (New York: Academic Press, 1985) 27-75.[Retour au texte]

[60] Jorge Duany, From the Cuban Ajiaco to the Cuban-American Hyphen: Changing Discourses of National Identity on the Island and in the Diaspora (Miami: Cuban-American Studies Association, 1997); Terry Doran, Sanet Satterfield and Chris Stade, A Road Well-traveled: Three Generations of Cuban-American Women (Fort Wayne Ind, :Latin American Educational Center, 1988); Margaret S. Boone, Capital Cubans, Refugee Adaptation in Washington D.C. (New York: AMS Press, 1989). [Retour au texte]

[61] Alixa Naff, Becoming American : the Early Arab Immigrant Experience (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, c1985).[Retour au texte]

[62] Evelyn Shakhir, Bint Arab: Arab and Arab American Women in the United States (Westport CT: Praeger , 1997). [Retour au texte]

[63] There are also articles on Arab-American women in the following works on contemporary Arabs in the United States, Arabs in America: Building a New Future, ed. Michael Suleiman (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999) and Arab Detroit: From Margin to Mainstream, ed. Nabeel Abraham and Andrew Shyrock (Detroit: Wayne State U. Press, 2000). [Retour au texte]

[64] See, for example, Mary Coolidge, Chinese Immigration, (New York: 1909). For a survey of this area see, Judy Yung, “The Fake and the True: Researching Chinese Womens Immigration History”, Chinese America: History and Perspectives (1998), 25-56; and George A. Pfeffer, “From Under the Sojourners Shadow: A Historiographical Study of Chinese Female Immigration to America, 1852-1882,” Journal of American Ethnic History, 11(3), 1992, 41-67.[Retour au texte]

[65] George Anthony Pfeffer, If They Don’t Bring their Women Here: Chinese Female Immigration Before Exclusion, (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1999). [Retour au texte]

[66] Judy Yung, Unbound Feet: A Social History of Chinese Women in San Francisco, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995) [Retour au texte]

[67] Huping Ling, Surviving on Gold Mountain a History of Chinese-American Women and their Lives (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998). [Retour au texte]

[68] See bibliography in Ling, Surviving on Gold Mountain. [Retour au texte]

[69] On Japanese Americans, Valerie Matsumoto, Farming the Home Place: a Japanese American community in California, 1919-1982 ( Ithaca, N.Y. : Cornell University Press, 1993); on Koreans: Pyong Gap Min, Changes and Conflicts : Korean Immigrant Families in New York, (Boston : Allyn and Bacon, c1998). Korean American women : from Tradition to Modern Feminism, ed. by Young I. Song and Ailee Moon (Westport, Conn. : Praeger, 1998).On Filipinas: Barabara Posadas, The Filipino Americans (Westport Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999). See also: Rhacel Parrenas, “’White Trash’ Meets ‘Little Brown Monkeys’: The Taxi Dance Hall as Site of Interracials and Gender Alliances between White Working Class Women and Filipino Migrant Men in the 1920s”, Amerasia Journal 24 (2) 1998, 115-132. [Retour au texte]

[70] On Southeast Asians see: James L. Freeman, Changing Identities: Vietnamese-Americans, 1975-1995 (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1995), Nazli Kibria, Family Tightrope: the Changing Lives of Vietnamese Americans (Princeton, NJ, Princton University Press, 1993). Sucheng Chan, ed. Hmong Means Free: Life in Laos and America (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994) and Jo Ann Koltik, New Pioneers in the Heartland: Hmong Life in Wisconsin, (Boston: Allyn and Bacon 1998); Nancy Donnelly, Changing Lives of Refugee Hmong Women (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994). [Retour au texte]

[71] LeLy Hayslip and Jay Wurts, When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman’s Journey from War to Peace (New York, Doubleday, 1989); Van Luu, “The Hardships of Escape for Vietnamese Women”, in Making Waves: An Anthology of Writings by and about Asian American Women, ed. by Asian Women United of California (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989) 60-72; Qui-Phiet Tran “Exile and Home: Contemporary Vietnamese-American Feminine Writing”, Amerasia Journal, 19 (3), 1993, 71-83.; see also King-Kok Cheung “ The Woman Warrior versus the Chinaman Pacific: Must a Chinese American Critic Choose between Feminism and Heroism?”, in: Conflicts in Feminism, ed. by Marianne Hirsch and Evelyn Fox Keller (New York: Routledge, 1990) 234-251. [Retour au texte]

[72] Karen Leonard, The South Asian Americans, contains the best survey and comprehensive references to the contemporary literature on South Asian ; see also Johanna Lessinger, From the Ganges to the Hudson: Indian Immigrants in New York City (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1995); Padma Rangaswamy, “Asian Indians in Chicago”, in Ethnic Chicago : Multicultural Portrait, ed. by Melvin Holli and Peter D’Alroy Jones, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans: 1995) 348-362.; Shamita Das Dasgupta, A Patchwork Shawl: Chronicles of South Asian Womean in America (New Brunswick, N.J. Rutgers University Press, 1998) ; John Fenton, Transplanting Religious Traditions :Asian Indians in America, (New York: Preager , 1988); Shideh Hanassab, “Sexuality, Dating and Double Standards: Young Iranian Immigrants in Los Angeles,” Iranian Studies 31 (1) 1998, 65-75. [Retour au texte]

[73] Keya Ganguli, States of Exception: Everyday Life and Postcolonial Identity (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001). Aiwah Ong: Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality (Durham , NC, Duke University Press,1999); Lisa Lowe, “Heterogeneity, Hybridity, Multiplicity: Marking Asian-American Differences,“ 1 (1) 1991, 22-44; Vincente Rafael, ed. Discrepant Histories Translocal Essays on Filipino Cultures, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1995) ; Shehong Chen , Being Chinese, becoming Chinese American (Urbana : University of Illinois Press, c2002). [Retour au texte]

[74] Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers : a Novel, with a foreword and introduction by Alice Kessler-Harris. rev. ed. (New York : Persea Books, c1999); Mary Antin, The Promised Land. with a foreword by Oscar Handlin. 2d ed. (Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1969 [c1912]); Emma Goldman, Living my Life. (New York, Da Capo Press, 1970 [c1931]). [Retour au texte]

[75] Jade Snow Wong, Fifth Chinese Daughter (New York:1965. [c. 1950]); Paule Marshall, Brown Girl Brownstones; with an afterword by Mary Helen Washington (New York, N.Y. : Feminist Press, c1981 [c 1959]), Monica Sone, Nisei Daughter (Boston, 1953). [Retour au texte]

[76] Rose Cohen(Gallup), Out of the Shadow, (New York: Jerome Ozier. 1917[c1918]) ; Marie Hall Ets, Rosa: The Life of an Italian Immigrant (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1970; Mary Paik Lee, Quiet Odyssey : a Pioneer Korean Woman in America, edited, with an introduction by Sucheng Chan. (Seattle : University of Washington Press, c1990); Hilda Satt Polacheck, I came a Stranger : the Story of a Hull House Girl , edited by Dena J. Polacheck Epstein; with an introduction by Lynn Y. Weiner. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989).[Retour au texte]

[77] Amy TanTan, The Joy Luck Club (New York : Putnam, c1989), Maxine Hong Kingston, The woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts (New York : Knopf, 1976). [Retour au texte]

[78] Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street, (Houston [Tex.] : Arte Publico Press, 1984). By the same author Woman Hollering Creek, and other stories (New York : Random House, c1991),Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy (New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 1990.); Cynthia Kadohata, The Floating World (New York : Viking, 1989); Gish Jen, Mona in the Promised Land, (New York: Vintage, 1997), by the same author: Typical American, (Boston : Houghton Mifflin, c1991); Frances Park .When my Sister was Cleopatra Moon (New York : Talk Miramax Books : Hyperion, 2000); Cristina Garcia, Dreaming in Cuban (New York : Knopf: 1992), by the same author, The Aguero Sisters (New York : Knopf, 1997), Julia Alvarez, How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents (Chapel Hill, Algonquin Books, 1991). [Retour au texte]

[79] Bharati Mukerjee, Jasmine, (New York: Grove Press, 1989) Jhumpa Lahiri, The Interpreter of Maladies (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1999), Anita Desai, Journey to Ithaca (Delhi : Ravi Dayal Publisher; Bangalore, 1996). [Retour au texte]

[80] Candice Bredbenner, A Nationality of Her Own: Women Marriage and the Laws of Citizenship, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998) , also Nancy Cott, “ Marriage and Womens Citizenship in the United States, 1830-1935,” American Historical Review, 103(5); see also the older work by Sophonsiba Breckinridge, Marriage and the Civic Rights of Women, cited in n. 7. [Retour au texte]

[a] Literature on Canadian women immigrants is not included here. It is voluminous and follows only a slightly different path from US womens history in historiographic terms. [Retour au texte]

[b]While some of the above named authors had academic degrees and even Ph.D’s few had senior university appointments, and those who did (Sohonsiba Breckinridge, for example, were not teaching in departments where their students would be future academics. Instead they were concentrated in fields such as Social work and Home economics. See entry for Sohonsiba Breckinridge, Marion Talbot, Edith Abbott, Julia Lathrop in Notable American Women, 3 vols. (Cambridge Ma, Harvard U. Press, 1971). Most of the women of the Chicago schools were considered practitioners of social sciences, not primarily scholars. [Retour au texte]

[c] The works of Addams, Wald and Carolina Ware were reprinted and re-edited in the 1980s and 1990s and are widely used today. For other rediscovered writing of the Progressive Era see note 72 and 74. [Retour au texte]

[d]The work of sociologist Alejandro Portes has been most influential for social scientists studying migration for over twenty years. Portes’ work follows an assimilation model which emphasizes segmented assimilation. Portes’ model is also important and influential because it incorporates American ideas of race. By and large, though, Portes and his numerous students have not paid much attenion to the historical literature in the field, nor have they incorporated a historical perspective into their research. See Alejandro Portes and Ruben Rumbaut, Immigrant America: A Portrait (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996). [Retour au texte]

[e]The centrality of race for immigration history had long been subsumed under questions of class identity and mobility for historians of European migration. But the last twenty years have seen a re-evaluation of the importance and meaning of race for European immigrants. For this David Roediger’s the Wages of Whiteness has been the seminal study. Neither Roediger nor other scholar have given historical “whiteness studies” the genedered focus this theme deserves [Retour au texte]

[f] I do not consider the lively debate about cultural identity, pan ethnic solidarity and diasporic culture, led mostly among academics in literature and cultural and ethnic studies, to be a significant factor in shaping the historical and scholarly asessment of immigration at this point. [Retour au texte]


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