Abstract

This paper looks at the factors that affected the extent to which Eastern European Jewish women were able to assimilate into American society between 1880 and 1914. By 1920, approximately 45% of Eastern European Jewish immigrants resided in New York City, primarily on the lower East Side. The population density of the Lower East Side made it the most crowded neighborhood in the city, if not the world. Eastern European Jews, especially Russian Jews, comprised the largest number of immigrants to the United States.

When these immigrants moved into the safety of the United States, they transplanted the traditions of their own Yiddish culture into the Lower East Side ghetto. For many of these Jewish immigrants, especially Eastern European Jewish women, the United States offered liberation and the promise of a new life. That is, if only they could manage to assimilate into the new country.

Through a comparison of life in the Shtetl with life in the Lower East Side ghetto, one can see that married Jewish women had to completely redefine their role, whereas single women only had to make an adjustment to the lives they already knew. Single and married women faced different challenges and obstacles but experienced similar results; though single women were given more opportunities than married women, neither group of women could fully assimilate into American society. The nature of the ghetto, changing economic roles, limited educational opportunities, employment, and entertainment created many obstacles that prevented assimilation for the Eastern European Jewish immigrant women, resulting in an insular culture and an emulation of American life rather than assimilation into it.

Date of Completion

Fall 12-15-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Department

History