Family, Domestic Economy, and Women’s and Men’s Lives

  • David A. Gerber
  • Alan M. Kraut


One of the contemporary aspects of immigrant life about which we may confidently say there are some profound differences from the past is that encompassed by women’s lives, especially in regard to work and family. But the changes we observe in women’s lives are much larger than the world of immigrants. They are general changes that pervade American society, which has witnessed in the last three decades a remarkable expansion in the public roles of women. In the article that you are about to read, anthropologist Nancy Foner points out the great differences in the lives of European immigrants of the turn-of-the-century era and contemporary immigrant women in New York City, continuously one of the most significant immigrant receiving centers throughout American history. In the past, when it was believed a woman’s place was in the home caring for a husband and children and keeping house, immigrant women stayed at home and their daughters left school to work and earn money to help maintain their parents’ household. If immigrant mothers and wives needed to earn money to supplement the income of their husbands and resident children, they did so working at home. They took in boarders, who paid for their meals and living space, and they did various types of industrial home work, especially sewing, for which they were paid. Today, mothers and wives work outside the home, and daughters go to school, and it is expected that men will share in the responsibility for housework and childcare.


Immigrant Woman Indian Woman Domestic Economy Jewish Woman Immigrant Mother 
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Suggestions for Further Reading

  1. Donna Gabaccia, From the Other Side: Women, Gender, and Immigrant Life in the United States, 1820–1990 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995).Google Scholar
  2. Elizabeth Ewen, Immigrant Women in the Land of Dollars: Life and Culture on the Lower East Side, 1890–1925 (New York: Monthly Review, 1985).Google Scholar
  3. Louise Lamphere, From Working Daughters to Working Mothers: Immigrant Women in a New England Industrial Community (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  4. Mei Nakano, Japanese American Women:Three Generations, 1890–1990 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  5. Sarah Deutsch, No Separate Refuge, Class, Culture, and Gender on an Anglo Hispanic Frontier in the American Southwest, 1880–1940 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David A. Gerber and Alan M. Kraut 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • David A. Gerber
  • Alan M. Kraut

There are no affiliations available

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