A New England state originally settled by British Protestants, Connecticut’s long immigrant history has been colored by its nearness to one of the primary ports of entry for immigrants, whom it has offered a variety of occupational opportunities. Its immigrant history exemplifies the benefits and problems in a diversified urban society.
Connecticut’s earliest immigrants were primarily English and Scottish. However, the early nineteenth century introduced substantial numbers of
Around 1850, a growth spurt began in Connecticut’s population, partly because of the state’s proximity to New York, where the bulk of European immigrants entered the United States. In 1850, Connecticut’s immigrant population of more than 38,000 constituted about 10 percent of all state residents, but by 1870, that proportion had risen to nearly 25 percent. Increases in immigrant numbers were particularly noticeable in Hartford and New Haven. Of the 113,000 immigrants living in Connecticut in 1870, more than half were Irish.
Immigrants contributed heavily to the growth of Connecticut’s
The early decades of the twentieth century saw considerable gains in the Italian, Polish, and French Canadian immigrants in Connecticut. The earliest
During the 1930’s, the Federal Writers’ Project produced a valuable ethnic survey of Connecticut. Many of the people interviewed in this survey explained how kinship and friendship networks had affected their lives. Immediately after arriving in Connecticut, 84 percent of new immigrants lodged with relatives or friends from Europe. Some European immigrants considered domestic jobs in wealthy families to offer the best employment opportunities, but young immigrants tended to prefer factory work. About 40 percent of the women tended lodgers and boarders in rooming houses, washed clothes, did piece work, or assisted husbands in family stores–enterprises that also often employed families’ children.
Home-based work had declined by the late 1930’s, and more women went into factories or stores or performed personal services, until about 65 percent of the women worked outside their homes. Older children who worked away from home expected to turn over the bulk of their earnings to their parents. The earnings of girls were often spent on their brothers’ educations. Parents did not expect their children to become financially independent, but the children often did. Young women in particular discovered new possibilities by being in the workforce, and some became active in labor unions.
By the end of the twentieth century, Connecticut’s Latino population was increasing sharply. The vast majority of the state’s Latino newcomers are
Andersen, Ruth O. M. From Yankee to American: Connecticut, 1865-1914. Chester, Conn.: Pequot Press, 1975. Study of the growth of a cosmopolitan state through an active and varied half-century of immigration. Blatt, Martin Henry, and Martha K. Norkunas, eds. Work, Recreation, and Culture: Essays in American Labor History. New York: Garland Publishers, 1996. Collection of articles that are especially helpful on family relationships and responsibilities among immigrants. Meyer, David R. From Farm to Factory to Urban Pastoralism: Urban Change in Central Connecticut. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1976. Economic history that demonstrates how Connecticut’s well-educated citizens appreciated and encouraged newcomers with shrewdness and acquisitiveness. Roth, David M. Connecticut: A Bicentennial History. New York: W. W. Norton, 1979. General history of Connecticut that includes some discussion of how the state’s immigrants from many lands have both enriched and complicated life in the New England state. Van Dusen, Albert E. Connecticut. New York: Random House, 1961. Overview of Connecticut with information on the effects of immigrants on business and labor conditions in the state.
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