Immigrant Women in the Settlement of Missouri

By Robyn Burnett; Ken Luebbering | Go to book overview

Preface

We own an old quilt, a favorite for picnics, made of scraps of fabric. The pieces of flannel, corduroy, gingham, and denim are different sizes and shapes, different colors and textures, and are arranged in no particular pattern, but these assorted scraps somehow come together to create something pleasing and complete.

The metaphor of a historical patchwork quilt made of the lives of immigrant women stayed with us throughout our work on this book. Many women who came to Missouri lacked the ability, time, or inclination to leave written records, and the records they did leave are often fragmentary. However, there are many records of women's lives, from different kinds of sources, of different times, and about different kinds of women. Some of these records are tiny and seem inconsequential at first glance; some are voluminous. Some reflect common experiences; others tell extraordinary tales.

We set out to write a book that focused on immigrant women in nineteenth-century Missouri. However, the topic resisted being contained within tight chronological, geographic, or demographic borders. First, it seemed important to include information about Missouri's early French settlers. They were few in number; their entry into Missouri predated the nineteenth-century; and many were not themselves first-generation emigrants from Europe. Nevertheless, the French Catholic culture and customs brought by these early settlers provide an important and interesting context for the later immigration of women into the state. Similarly, we rejected the year 1900 as an arbitrary cutoff point for stories in the book,

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