Memories of Migration: Gender, Ethnicity and Work in the Lives of Jewish and Italian Women in New York, 1870-1924 (review)
- Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies
- Purdue University Press
- Volume 18, Number 1, Fall 1999
- pp. 141-143
- Additional Information
Book Reviews 141 to live, Dan. Live! There's so precious little ofit-for any ofus.' It was not Lin's voice he now heard, though they were words she would have spoken. It was his own." Sam Bluefarb tells a good story. He has apparently learned from his years of teaching English and his scholarly critical work. His is the world ofwriting crisply and interestingly with sensitivity and calmness, and when needed, with suspense and tension and passion. Bluefarb has written an engrossing tale of love, of life, of coming of age and the realism ofmiddle life, ofspring when the juices run, and ofautumn with its muted tones and trickling streams. He has naturally reviewed the American Jewish milieu and its exotic counterpart in far-off India. He has given a first-person view of the publish-orperish academic life, the Ernie Pyle soldiers story, and the pulsing hopes of young romance confounded by the immutable object-the realistic world we live in. Leslie Field Department of English, Emeritus Purdue University Memories of Migration: Gender, Ethnicity and Work in the Lives of Jewish and Italian Women in New York, 1870-1924, by Kathie Friedman-Kasaba. State University ofNew York Press, 1996. 242 pages. $59.50 (c); $19.95 (p). Kathie Friedman-Kasaba re-considers the migration of Jewish and Italian women to New York city, criticizing previous frameworks which have emphasized a pushpull /assimilationist model or a historical-structural approach. Instead she urges us to examine the interconnection between global processes which fostered migration in the late ninteenth and early twentith centuries and the construction of gender, race, and class formations. Like other recent analysts she sees women as actors within their households, neighborhoods, and ethnic communities. She seeks to understand variability in women's experiences and strategies, the contrasts both between single women and mothers and between Jewish and Italian immigrants. In her chapters on the origins of Jewish and Italian female migration, I learned a great deal about the changing political economy in Europe and its impact on migration. For example, young Jewish women were much more involved in wage labor (for example, in garment factories or as homeworkers) and Italian women much more occupied with farm labor (to make up for absent husbands who had already migrated) than many other studies suggest. Friedman-Kasaba highlights the role of the state in these chapters, which is a welcome approach since we often have relied on economic explanations without taking into account the way in Wllich governmental policy has actively shaped immigration. For instance, the Italian state encouraged temporary 142 SHOFAR Falll999 Vol. 18, No. I migration ofmen, while in Russia the government, through restricting the occupations Jews could take up, first brought women into the paid labor force and then encouraged them to migrate. In her chapters on the United States, Friedman-Kasaba particularly focuses on issues ofracialization, and this is the section ofthe book (Chapters 4 and 5) that makes the greatest contribution to the literature on women and migration. Friedman-Kasaba examines the importance of racial nativism (the application of racial categories to immigrant populations from Southern and Eastern European backgrounds) in shaping middle-class reformers' views of both married and single Italian and Jewish women. Female reformers tended to see married immigrant women as childlike, often taking a "maternalist"position in terms of"uplifting" and assimilating them. Through settlement houses and organizations like the North American Civic League for Immigrants, middle-class female reformers set out to reform the domestic work routines and child care practices of Jewish and Italian mothers. Reformers disapproved of cash-earning strategies which would make women less dependent on their husbands and sought instead to get women to budget more, to change the food they cooked, and to learn how to make clothes for their children. In the case of single women, reformers were more concerned with "the white slave trade" (and other aspects ofprostitution) as well as the purity and moral standing of young women. Through various organization (including those founded by German-Jewish women to aid Russian immigrants), women reformers advocated vocational training, including some programs that were out oftouch with the realities ofthe industrial labor market...