Women of Courage: Jewish and Italian Immigrant Women in New York

By Rose Laub Coser; Laura S. Anker et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter Two
Leaving for America: "The Beautifulest Country in the World"

My parents didn't talk about leaving . . . but from what was going on in the household, I could tell that something was abnormal. . . . I saw refugees on wagons with horses. I realized that there's two fighting factions not far from us . . . the Russians against the Germans--and the Russians were retreating. . . . As the Russians were retreating, they were burning the home . . . and then some Russian Cossacks were looking for the owners of our property . . . There was no government, anarchy.

Edith Blum

I got married and I wanted to start a new life . . . being as how I didn't have a mother, I felt lost . . . I said to my husband that if you marry me I don't want to stay here. . . . I want to get out.

Rosa Trotta Grasso

The largest waves of immigration from Europe to the United States took place at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. Early waves of Italian and Jewish immigrants had little in common with the immigrants who came at the turn of the century from eastern Europe and southern Italy. German Jews began coming to the United States in the middle of the nineteenth century, leaving their native country in the wake of the revolution of 1848. Many of these immigrants were well-off financially. But many German women also came as maids hoping to improve their conditions ( Quack 1990). These early immigrants mostly settled in the big cities, principally New York and San Francisco. Italian immigrants from the North of Italy also arrived during these years, settling in the large cities of the northeast and the West Coast ( Palmer 1965; di Leonardo 1984).

-13-

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