Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mary Antin

(Mary Antin in 1915)
Mary Antin

     Mary Antin, originally Maryashe in Hebrew and Marya in Russian, was born in Polotsk, Russia to a Jewish family in 1881. During this time period Jews were facing persecution, discrimination, and economic hardships in Russia. This caused a massive wave of Russian immigration to America. 2 ½ million of the 8 million immigrants who immigrated to America between 1880-1941 from Russia and neighboring countries were Jewish.

     When Mary Antin was 12 she immigrated to Boston with her parents and three siblings. They moved into the West end of Boston. During this time the West and North ends of Boston were known as the slums, full of tenement housing. Yet, Antin saw her new life in America as a “second birth” full of endless opportunities. She received free education from Boston’s public school system; where she excelled, and was published in the Boston Herald by the time she was 15 years old. After graduating the Girls Latin School in Boston, she continued on to the Teachers College of Columbia University in New York City, and then onto Barnard College.

     Antin wrote many articles for the Atlantic Monthly (including, “The American Miracle” in our course packet). In 1912 her autobiography, “The Promised Land”, was published. In her autobiography she describes her life and assimilation into American culture as a child and young adult. She followed it by publishing a second book in 1915, “They Who Knock at Our Gates: A Complete Gospel of Immigration.” Antin used the popularity she gained from her success as a writer to fight against restrictive immigration legislation as an adult.   

The American Miracle, Atlantic Monthly:

"Naturalization, with us Russian Jews, may mean more than the adoption of the immigrant by America: it may mean the adoption of America by the immigrant."

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