Women and Immigration

The first piece, “Immigrant Women: Nowhere At Home?” begins by discussing how academia saw increased studies of immigrants, ethnics and women in the 1970s and 80s, and how those three were linked to a common agenda to bring marginalized groups to the forefront of scholarship. It goes on to state the problems with the interdisciplinary nature of studying women and immigration, in that it is often difficult for scholars to reach across boundaries of discipline in their work. It distinguishes between the methods of study. Immigration studies shifted from studying great individuals to studying communities, and examined the ways in which men and women interacted. Women’s historians, on the other hand, focused on the uniqueness of women as distinct from men. According to Gabaccia, this creates issues in interdisciplinary discussions on immigrant family life. There is also a struggle in studying women and immigration with trying to avoid racial stereotypes- Gabaccia brings up the example of students of Mexican and Chicano immigrants downplaying “machismo” or ideas of patriarchy so as not to reinforce Anglo “myths” which attempted to “other” Mexican immigrants. Most women immigration historians emphasize instead the large role women play in kinship and community. She goes on to discuss a possible difference in Anglo “assumptions that feminism originates in individuation and the pursuit of individualism” versus other cultures in which feminism emerges through “connection to others.” She concludes by pointing to different views of feminism from the perspective of middle-class (white dominant) feminists and minority women, who in many cases are more concerned with “threats to the family integrity” rather than male domination.
The second piece, “Women’s Place in the History of the Irish Diaspora: A Snapshot,” by Janet Nolan starts out by mentioning the underemphasized vastness of Irish immigration to America, pointing out how this immigration is not remotely limited to just the northeast, but all over the country. Nolan also discusses how Irish immigration was unique in that female immigration was just as numerous as male immigration, and at times even more numerous. Gender is playing a larger role in the historiographical analysis of Irish immigration. She mentions several fields in which knowledge of Irish women immigrants needs to expand: the formation of Irish ethnic and national identity in Ireland, the Irish-American contribution to Irish independence, and Irish women’s involvement in the US labor movement. The article continues on by noting all kinds of new developments in the field of study for Irish women immigration. One part that was of great interest to me was about Irish women’s role in spreading literacy and orthodoxy among Catholics. The article specifically mentions the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and their role in Catholic education in the Midwest. This is important to me personally so it’s probably the part of the article which most stood out to me. The article concludes by noting the uniquely powerful imprint the Irish have had as immigrants on the United States, which has not been surpassed by newer immigrants. It states boldly that “Their epic journey has at last begun to be examined in new ways.”

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