Dutch American Voices: Letters from the United States, 1850-1930

Dutch American Voices: Letters from the United States, 1850-1930

Dutch American Voices: Letters from the United States, 1850-1930

Dutch American Voices: Letters from the United States, 1850-1930

Synopsis

Dutch American Voices brings together a full spectrum of such perspectives, as expressed in immigrants' letters to their families and friends in the Netherlands. From the terse notes of first-time writers to the polished chronicles of skilled correspondents, the letters are presented in engaging English translations that capture the diversity of their authors' personalities. Herbert J. Brinks has included twenty-three series of letters from the Dutch Immigrant Letter Collection at Calvin College, covering periods of correspondence from three to fifty-seven years. In addition to an introduction to Dutch immigration history, the book provides abundant illustrations and brief biographies of the correspondents. Most write from Dutch American agricultural communities in Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa, but some describe life in cities as far-flung as Paterson, New Jersey; Tampa, Florida; and Oak Harbor, Washington. Rural and urban, Protestant and Catholic, male and female, the letter writers capture moments from their arrival through decades of life in the New World.

Excerpt

The earliest letter in this collection follows by over two hundred years Henry Hudson's 1609 exploration of New York Harbor and the subsequent founding of Forts Orange and New Amsterdam. The entire New Netherland colony persisted only until 1664 when Governor Pieter Stuyvesant capitulated to British invaders. Thereafter, immigration from the Netherlands virtually stopped until the post-Napoleonic era, finally surging again in 1846-1847. Then, along with Germans, Irish, and other Northern Europeans, the Dutch began to leave their homeland in significant numbers, and the vast majority, over 90 percent, came to the United States.

Already during the French occupation of the Netherlands, 1810-1814, Jewish merchants from Amsterdam, hampered by trade embargoes, were migrating to London, and some of these sailed farther west to settle in New York and Philadelphia. After 1815, working-class Jews migrated directly to New York and other cities where their coreligionists were well established. Although among the first to emigrate, these Dutch Jews did not establish a model for the vastly larger group of Christians (about 90 percent of 380,000) who came to the United States between 1820 and 1930.

Almost all Jews were moving from city environment to city environment, singly or in family groups. By contrast, both the Catholics and a segment of ultra-Calvinist religious seceders initially immigrated in large groups led by ministers. Both were disaffected with the privileged Dutch Reformed (Hervormde) church and the governmental policies that favored it. Despite a history of civil and social discrimination against Catholics, most church officials in the Catholic provinces, Limburg and Noord Brabant, to protect the religious and social cohesion of their parishes, discouraged emigration. Consequently, only one priest, Father Theodorus van den Broek in Little Chute, Wisconsin, sponsored a major . . .

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