The Struggles of Immigrant Women in the Early Twentieth Century

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Between the years of 1840 and 1914, about forty million people immigrated to the United States from foreign countries. Many of them came to find work and earn money to have a better life for their families. Others immigrated because they wanted to escape the corrupt political power of their homelands, such as the revolution in Mexico after 1911. Whatever the case, many found it difficult to begin again in a new country. Most immigrants lived in slums with very poor living conditions. They had a hard time finding work that paid enough to support a family. Not only was it difficult for immigrant men, but for women as well. Immigrant women faced many challenges including lack of education and social life as well as low wages and poor working conditions. When families immigrated to the United States, men were primarily the ones who were expected to learn and bring in wages to support the family. While women did bring in wages as well, they were expected to care for the home and take care of the children. Because of this, women lacked the chance to go to school and become educated because it was boys who were mainly sent to school. Women were only expected to work and earn money to help support the family. In the novel Bread Givers, a book about an immigrant family in New York, one of the daughters named Sara explains her sister’s role by saying, “Bessie would rush home the quicker to help Mother with the washing or ironing, or bring home another bundle of night work, and stay up till all hours to earn another dollar for the house.” In this novel, Bessie’s duties are to help around the house and work all she can to earn money to support her family. She does not have the privilege to go to school and attempt to prepare for a bet... ... middle of paper ... ... many hardships when they came to America. They were treated much differently than men and had certain expectations to fulfill. They came to America to seek better lives, but were welcomed with many challenges of living in this new world. The lack of income that immigrant families received greatly affected the lives of women. While these challenges left many women poor, uneducated, and in poor health, they also caused women to fight for better wages and working conditions. They would also pave the way for women to become more independent in later years. Works Cited Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty: An American History, Seagull third edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2012. Print. The Power and the People, episode 4 of New York: A Documentary Film, Steeplechase Films, 1999, PBS home video. Yezierska, Anzia. Bread Givers. New York: Persea Books, 2003. Print.

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