September 26, 2013
Foreign Immigration in the Late 19th Century
In the late Nineteenth Century immigrants from all over the world were coming to settling in North America. Between 1850 and 1880 approximately seven million new immigrants reached American soil in hopes of new, successful lives. These foreign immigrants had overcome struggles by building small communities within the American cities while defeating diseases and lacking education. When the immigrants landed on the shores of America they did well in adjusting themselves. They built ethnic organizations that were supported and mended together into established farming communities. Most of the immigrants were illiterate and impoverished. They lived in tight communities of their own which has churches or synagogues, depending on their beliefs. The immigrants were only accepted as American if they were natural-born. Any children that the immigrants had were automatically considered American. And those who were “American” still lived amongst themselves with their traditional cultural beliefs. In the 1880’s, the “new” immigrants came from Eastern and Southern Europe. Ranging from the Slovaks, Poles, Italians, Greeks, Croats, and Jews. These immigrants came from countries with little history of democratic government; had few opportunities for advancement. At this time the new immigrants populated about nineteen percent of the American population. By 1900, it increased to sixty-six percent. Most of the populations came from cities that they “hived” in such as New York and Chicago. Was America a dumping ground or a melting pot? The reasoning for the Europeans leaving their home countries was due to the fact that there were no jobs because of the over population. There was “no room” for everyone to have houses and to have jobs, too. At this time, the Europeans had what they called “American fever”. They received letters from loved one already living in America talking about their opportunities and how they love living in a “free” country. This is when American would bring those Europeans, who wanted to, to America for cheap labor. To build railroads and to populate states. It was somewhat easier for the Jews to get settled and to struggle less having tailoring and shop keeping experience from “home”.
Once some Europeans had the “American experience”, they would decide to return to their homelands. These individuals were called “Birds of Passage”. The immigrants who did this had a harder time keeping their traditional culture alive within them.
As the population increased exponentially over the next several years, the government did not do anything to control the incoming immigrants. Space was running out. It came down to the cities unofficial “government” to minister a political machine. This was led by “bosses”. The boss provided jobs for the immigrants in return for votes. They also helped with providing houses, food, and clothing. Bosses promised to build parks, schools and hospitals within the immigrants’ neighborhoods.
Jane Addams was a middle-class American who was dedicated on uprising the urban masses. She opened a settlement house, or Hull House, which she helped the immigrants with learning English, any counseling that the immigrants needed, child care services for the working mothers, along with putting together traditional cultural activities for the neighborhoods.
Other settlement houses were founded throughout America for womans activism and of social reform. In 1893, an Illinois antisweatershop law was passed to protect woman workers, who were mostly single, and to prohibit child labor. This also opened up new frontier opportunities. More than a million women joined the workforce. Although I there were social codes that determined which jobs certain woman could have depending on race, ethnicity, and class, it did not hold them back. Most white-collar jobs such as secretary