Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Carol Lasser


Immigrant, Jewish, Women, Pittsburgh (PA), United States


I began this project with an interest in Jewish immigrant women's adjustment to American life. I first examined general patterns of immigration to the United States in the nineteenth century, to determine how Jewish immigration fit into the patterns and specifically, the. role of Jewish women in Jewish immigration. I also sought to discover how Jews differed from other immigrant groups, and how these differences affected the establishment of Jewish communities in America.

Immigration to the United States in the nineteenth century falls into two categories : from approximately 1840 to 1880, immigrants came mostly from northern, western and central Europe; after 1880, eastern Europe was the source of what was called the "new immigration." Immigration began to rise significantly in the 1830's; the rate of immigration increased throughout the nineteenth century, due to the expansion of European population and the dislocations brought on by economic modernization, and the demand for manual labor which U.S. industrialization created. Before 1880, immigration from northwestern Europe- Ireland, Great Britain, Germany and the Netherlands- counted for two-thirds of total immigration; by 1880, the source of immigration had shifted to the southern and eastern countries- Italy, Russia, Poland, Austria-Hungary, and the Balkans. The shift in the source of immigration most likely occurred because economic development, accompanied by population growth, began in the northwest and spread across Europe. Localized catastrophic events- crop failure, famine, pogroms- often set off migration from specific countries.

Although immigration has been seen as a movement of dislocated peasants, about half of the immigrants reporting occupations upon arrival in America between 1851 and 1917 came under the category of unskilled general labor and domestic service. These workers sought economic betterment; expanding American business and industry offered them opportunities, and until the 1890's, encouraged immigration to fill the many jobs available. Immigrants tended to settle in cities, attracted by the availability of jobs which urban and industrial expansion produced; moreover, cities corresponded to major ports of arrival from abroad.

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