Daughters Of The Shtetl Book Review

Some of the stereotypes of women are the following: weak-minded, focused on shopping and gossip or my favorite, leading men into temptation.

The young women who came to this country in the early 20th century, escaping persecution and a severe lack of opportunity in Europe were far from the stereotype. They were strong, capable and brave enough to leave the world they knew for America.

In 1990, Susan Glenn published Daughters Of The Shtetl,  a book chronicling the lives of a generation of young women, who in the years leading up to World War I, left Europe for America. Some came alone, other came with their families or their spouses. They believed America to be their ticket to a bright future.  Instead they lived in overcrowded  tenements and worked in factories where the pay was low, safety standards were non-existent and sexual harassment and discrimination were common place.

I found this book extremely satisfying and an excellent read. It could have been written in the format of a dry college textbook, but Ms. Glenn is able to inject life into the history and the personal stories of her subjects.   As a product of this world and these women, I have a sense of pride after reading this book. These girls could have easily returned to their countries of origin, but they did not. They chose to stay and blaze a path for future generations of American women.

I absolutely recommend it.


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