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Mary Antin

An immigrant girl who achieved literary fame at the age of thirteen, Mary Antin became a symbol of the American dream. When Antin arrived in Boston with her family, she was placed in kindergarten classes because of her lack of English, but her intelligence shone through in poems her teachers sent off to the journal Primary Education and to local newspapers to show how much an immigrant child could learn in mere months. Her letters describing her family’s journey to America were an instant bestseller, helping her support the family and finish her education at an exclusive girls’ school. Her literary and academic success were hailed by her teachers as “an illustration of what the American system of free education and the European immigrant could make of each other,” and she became a spokesperson for assimilation and achievement in the Jewish community. Antin went on to write short stories, essays, and a wildly popular autobiography, The Promised Land, about her experience of the American dream. Despite her dedication to assimilation and her belief in the incredible opportunities available to Jews in America, Antin also supported Zionism and wrote extensively in support of the idea of a Jewish homeland.

Antin, Mary - still image [media]
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“I was born, I have lived, and I have been made over. Is it not time to write my life’s story?” So begins Mary Antin's The Promised Land, one of the best-known autobiographies penned by an American Jewish woman. Antin celebrated the immigrant experience and the boundless opportunity of America, the land in which she, "Mashke, the granddaughter of Raphael the Russian... should be free to fashion my own life, and should dream my dreams in English phrases.”

Institution: The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, OH, www.americanjewisharchives.org and the New York Public Library.

Date of Birth
June 13, 1881
Place of Birth
Polotsk
Date of Death
March 15, 1949
Occupations

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Mary Antin." (Viewed on September 20, 2014) <http://jwa.org/people/antin-mary>.

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