Women in Missouri History: In Search of Power and Influence

By Leeann Whites; Mary C. Neth et al. | Go to book overview

German-Speaking Women in
Nineteenth-Century Missouri

The Immigrant Experience

Linda Schelbitzki Pickle

German-speakers were the largest group of non-English-speakers to immigrate to Missouri in the nineteenth century. Unlike the French fur trappers and traders who came in the late 1700s, these immigrants arrived chiefly in family groups, so women were always present in significant numbers. Yet we know relatively little about their specific roles in the contributions this group made to Missouri history and culture, since most women's influence was felt primarily in the home and family, where few records were kept. Among the many public ways in which nineteenth-century German- speaking women assisted in the settlement of Missouri, the most conspicuous are those that can be attributed to nuns, who founded schools, hospitals, and social organizations. The history and experiences of these religious women are also relatively well recorded because of the institutional and personal manuscripts collected in archives. It is a different story with lay- women, however. We can document the experiences of only a small number of secular German-speaking women through their personal writings. We also have, for the most part, only indirect evidence of how they furthered their family's goals and the more public accomplishments of the men in their families. And yet we know that their efforts were considerable, for without them the German-speaking immigrants in Missouri could not have been as successful as they were in persisting as family-based units. The present study offers an overview of the first century of German-speaking

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