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“Good Metal in Our Melting Pot, Says Miss Wald,” New York Times, November 16, 1913

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About this News Article

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Historical Background

Discussion Questions

Level: HIgh School and above


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More of this TYPE: News Articles

More of this TIME PERIOD: 1900-1949

More on these TOPICS: Anti-Semitism, Immigration


HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

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Between 1880 and 1920, close to 20 million immigrants arrived in the United States. Concentrated primarily in urban areas, they generated concerns about their ability to fit into American society. Native-born Americans often viewed immigrant poverty and degradation as the source of urban problems, rather than as the result of the upheaval caused by industrialization and urbanization. Social welfare workers tried to reassure mainstream society that this wave of immigrants would blend in just as previous generations of new arrivals had done.

In the 1890s, Lillian Wald founded the Henry Street Settlement House on New York’s Lower East Side to provide assistance and guidance for Jewish immigrants. Like many immigrant aid organizations, the Settlement House stressed American values and practices. As did many of her contemporaries, Wald promoted the notion of America as a “melting pot,” into which new arrivals would disappear.

Most immigrants were eager to Americanize and become citizens of their new home. Yet they were still able to retain many of their original customs and traditions as resources in the adjustment process. Today, most historians reject the notion of a “melting pot,” but Lillian Wald and her contemporaries embraced this reassuring concept that prized conformity rather than diversity.

For more on Lillian Wald, go to JWA’s Women of Valor exhibit.

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DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

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1. How does the author of the article convey a sense of immigrants as machines?

2. According to Wald, what do immigrants really need?

3. How does Wald put a human face on immigrants?

4. Is Wald optimistic about the immigrants’ future in America?

5. According to Wald, how has America contributed to the immigrants’ problems?

6. How do Wald’s background and training influence her attitude towards the immigrants?

7. According to Wald, why are Russian immigrants more optimistic than their American contemporaries? How will their presence benefit America?

8. What is the best way for immigrant girls to avoid immoral behavior, according to Wald?


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Jewish Women's Archive. "JWA - News Articles - Article on Immigrant Assimilation." <http://jwa.org/primarysources/news_07.html>.