One of the most prominent voices of the early twentieth century wave of immigration to the United States, Mary Antin is best known for her 1912 bookThe Promised Land, describing her experience and that of her family in settling in America and attending American schools.
Born in Russia in 1881, Mary Antin was the daughter of a Jewish merchant who had been trained as a rabbi only to reject Orthodox Judaism and instead go into business. Her birthplace, Plotzk, was in the region known as the “Pale of Settlement,” where Russian Jews were allowed to live. After
Seeking to escape Jewish persecution in Russia, Antin’s father sailed for America in 1891 and settled in
In October, 1901, Antin married
Even before undertaking her college studies, Antin had begun her autobiographical writings. Her first book, which she wrote in Yiddish as a set of letters to an uncle still in Plotzk, was later published in English as
A dozen years after From Plotzk to Boston appeared, the immigration experience became the subject of Antin’s most widely read book,
In 1914, Antin published They Who Knock at Our Gates: A Complete Gospel of Immigration. She also lectured widely on the subject of immigration from 1913 to 1918. At a time when the American government was considering adopting more restrictive immigration policies, Antin was an outspoken advocated of openness to new immigrants. She also became a strong supporter of former president Theodore Roosevelt, who sought to recapture the presidency on the ticket of the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party in 1912.
Mary Antin’s life became more difficult after the United States entered
Antin, Mary. The Promised Land. 1912. Whitefish, Mont.: Kessinger, 2004. Reprint edition of Antin’s most famous and influential book. Howe, Irving. World of Our Fathers: The Journey of the East European Jews to America and the Life They Found and Made. New York: Galahad Books, 1994. Comprehensive history of the experience of East European Jewish immigrants, including Jewish Germans, such as Antin and Grabau. Mazur, Allan. A Romance in Natural History: The Lives and Works of Amadeus Grabau and Mary Antin. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2004. Sympathetic joint biography with special attention to Antin’s and Grabau’s writings.
Melting pot theory
Religion as a push-pull factor
Russian and Soviet immigrants