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Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

Sally M. Miller

First Committee Member

Erling A. Erickson

Second Committee Member

Donald H. Limbaugh


This study considers the question of whether immigrant women in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries had similarities in their experiences as immigrants to the United States. Two time periods were examined : the years between 1815 and the Civil War and the years since 1965 . As often as was possible, first- person accounts of immigrant women were used. For the nineteenth century women, these consisted of published letters and diaries and an occasional autobiography. For the contemporary women, published accounts and interviews were used. Twenty- six women from sixteen different countries were interviewed by the author. The interviewees were from a broad spectrum of educational, socioeconomic, and religious backgrounds. The first chapter discusses reasons for emigration, the difficulties of leaving one's home, and the problems of the journey.

The second chapter considers some of the problems of adjusting to a new environment, such as adapting to new kinds of food and housing, feelings of isolation, separation from family and friends, language problems, and prejudice. The third chapter deals with family issues. It examines how living in a culture with new freedoms and opportunities affected relationships with husbands and children. Many immigrant women, either by choice or necessity, worked outside the home for the first time after immigrating, which changed a woman's role within the family. This chapter also looks at the difficulty of watching one's children grow up in a culture with different expectations and standards of behavior. The conclusion drawn from this study is that many women who have immigrated to the United States, even those from very different times and situations, have had a surprising number of experiences and emotions in common as part of their immigrant experience



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