Peasant Maids, City Women: From the European Countryside to Urban America

Peasant Maids, City Women: From the European Countryside to Urban America

Peasant Maids, City Women: From the European Countryside to Urban America

Peasant Maids, City Women: From the European Countryside to Urban America

Synopsis

"In concise social histories of four European rural cultures, the authors emphasize the crucial effects of gender. They explore the contrast between each regional culture of origin and the urban experience of ethnic communities in Chicago. The concept of assimilation, they suggest, involves two different dynamics. In the initial phase, adaptation, the new environment demands major changes of incoming immigrants to meet basic needs. The second dynamic, acculturation, involves changes for immigrants and also for the new culture with which they interact." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, immigrants from Europe came to America in search of a better life for themselves and their offspring--or just for better wages in order to maintain their family life. These immigrants made up three-fourths of the population in many urban centers and were largely responsible for the industrialization and urbanization that created the modern United States. About 30 to 50 percent--the exact number varies by ethnic group--were women. Peasant Maids--City Women examines where these women came from, analyzes their place in the societies they left behind, and shows how their lives changed and how they participated in building urban America.

The book focuses on the four largest ethnic groups in Chicago around the turn of the century: Germans, Irish, Swedes, and Poles. It begins its story in the respective home countries. Because of the vast regional variations in nineteenth-century Europe, however, we did not look at nation-states but chose regions that sent many migrants to Chicago. The first part of the book presents concise social histories of four seemingly different European rural cultures, with an emphasis on gender rarely found in European historical scholarship. At the end of each chapter we know why some women wanted to emigrate. The stories continue in Chicago, where we examine how the women organized their lives in the city's ethnic neighborhoods.

Each chapter follows a similar outline. After a brief description of the national historical framework, the regions are introduced with basic information on geographical, social, and political structures. Then follows in-depth analysis of the life-course experience of women, their functions and roles in rural society, their work as well as their prospects. Chapters in the second part describe the neighborhoods and parishes that provided living space for the four ethnic groups. We obtained demographic information on family formation and family change. The statistical skeletons were fleshed out with information on family crises and family culture. The broader picture of community formation and ethnic women's organizations introduces an ethnic women's movement that has hitherto gone unnoticed in . . .

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