Before New York Harbor’s Ellis Island became the major East Coast immigration reception center in 1892, many European immigrants entered the United States through Boston, Massachusetts. Irish immigrants predominated during the middle decades of the nineteenth century, with large numbers of Italians arriving during the decades surrounding the turn of the twentieth century. Later immigration became much more diverse, with large influxes of Jamaicans, Portuguese-speaking peoples, and Chinese entering the state during the late twentieth century.
Irish Americans gradually moved out of Boston into rural Massachusetts as men found work as farmhands and
The Irish who remained in poor and overcrowded conditions in Massachusetts cities increased disease and crime. Within the predominantly Protestant state, the
Catholic immigrants in Massachusetts generally maintained their religious affiliations, but Protestant immigrants often did not.
During the years immediately preceding and following 1900, new waves of immigrants began entering Massachusetts:
Many first-generation Italian immigrant men worked at pick-and-shovel jobs in various locations. The women generally did not work outside their homes but often did piecework and sewing at home to supplement their husbands’ incomes. Children were sent out to work as soon as they were old enough to take jobs. Some were taken out of school so they could go to work as early as possible.
Many immigrant workers determined that the
French Canadian immigrants working at a Winchendon, Massachusetts, mill in 1911.
Prospective immigrants, many of whom were family members and relatives of those who had come earlier, found new federal laws blocking them during the 1920’s, particularly the Immigration Act of 1924, which reduced the number of admissible immigrants to 2 percent of the population from any country already living in the United States in 1890. This law virtually excluded new immigrants from southern and eastern European countries. The law also included an act specifically banning Asian populations entirely. Thus immigration for the next few decades consisted mainly of northern and western Europeans.
In 1965, the U.S. Congress replaced the 1924 immigration law with one that based immigration standards not on race or nationality but on skills. This allowed many more southern and eastern Europeans to enter the country, as well as educated Asians who would make important contributions to the nation.
After 1965, immigration from the Caribbean increased, particularly from the English-speaking island nation of
A Census Bureau community survey in 2006 established
Handlin, Oscar. Boston’s Immigrants. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1969. Study of Boston’s immigrants up to the time of the Civil War by one of the leading scholars of American immigration history. Puleo, Stephen. The Boston Italians. Boston: Beacon Press, 2007. Well-researched book on the history of one ethnic group settling in one large city. Rivard, Paul E. A New Order of Things: How the Textile Industry Transformed New England. Hanover: University Press of New England, 2002. Detailed study of immigrant textile workers in Massachusetts by a former official of the American Textile History Museum in Lowell. Solomon, Barbara Miller. Ancestors and Immigrants: A Changing New England Tradition. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1956. Exploration of the development of restrictions on New England immigration between the 1850’s and 1920’s. Ueda, Reed, and Conrad Edick Wright, eds. Faces of Community: Immigrant Massachusetts, 1860-2000. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2003. Collection of essays demonstrating how several immigrant groups adapted to their Massachusetts environment during the later nineteenth century. Watson, Bruce. Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream. New York: Viking Press, 2005. Detailed look at the situation that confronted immigrant textile workers in Lowell during the early twentieth century.
Industrial Workers of the World
Pilgrim and Puritan immigrants
Religions of immigrants