History 246 Reading Guide

Discussion:  Immigrant Women:  Balancing old-world and new-world expectations of womanhood

  • Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers (1925; reprinted 1975, 1999).

Further reading:

  • Peggy Pascoe, "Gender Systems in Conflict:  The Marriages of Mission-Educated Chinese American Women, 1874-1939," Journal of Social History 22.4 (1989), 631-652. [in Ellen Carol DuBois and Vicki L. Ruiz, Unequal Sisters:  A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women's History 1st ed. (1990), 123-140] or JSTOR.
  • Judy Yung, "The Social Awakening of Chinese American Women as Reported in Chung Sai Yat Po, 1900-1911," Chinese Historical Society of America Bulletin (1988). [in Ellen Carol DuBois and Vicki L. Ruiz, Unequal Sisters:  A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women's History 1st ed. (1990), 195-207].

Questions:

  • Note:  Consider Anzia Yezierska as an immigrant woman, also writing about "womanhood" in the early twentieth century.  Yezierska clearly located her story in space—Hester Street in New York City, and in ethnicity and culture—Eastern European Jewish immigrants. Why did she not locate it so clearly by era?
  • How did Yezierska tell the story? How does it unfold? How did she divide the story—and why?
  • Why did Yezierska convey so much anger in this semi-autobiographical story?
  • Why did she call the book called "Bread Givers" rather than "Burden Bearers"?
  • How did women survive in this immigrant world? What message did Yezierska convey about types of survival? Was there a"promise" of America for women?