The New Way Of Life And Culture On The Lower East Side 1890-1925 By Elizabeth Ewen

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It goes without saying that all things, miniscule or monumental, are bound to become subject of change. Change can be caused by a number of things, but for the women who’s tales were recanted in Immigrant Women in the Land of Dollars: Life and Culture on the Lower East Side 1890-1925 written by Elizabeth Ewen, change was especially imminent as they were forced to exchange the “old ways” of their native countries for the “new ways” of America. Immigrant women’s lives were completely altered, as they had to adjust to American culture in an innumerable amount of ways; they specifically saw change in how they perceived leisure and luxury, their views on marriage and roles as wives, and also their expectations as daughters.
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On a trip to the Upper East Side, Maria Ganz, a Jewish girl who had been growing up in a Jewish tenement community, saw the stark differences between the two sides of Manhattan; “the contrast she saw- between uptown wealth and … the tenement districts- led her to see things in new ways” (Ewen 21). The social environment of America was drastically different than what these immigrant women were used to; in America there were distinct social classes that were completely defined by how much money one had, or didn’t have; while in Europe they “had of course dealt in money, but also dealt in barter or kind” (Ewen 23) while in America “everything was measure in money terms” (Ewen 23). This is not to say that middle class immigrant women did not have their own form of luxury; while their day to day lives were still reminiscent of nineteenth century life, many women indulged in meals at tasteful restaurants, shopping at department stores, and finding more affordable variations of Fifth Avenue inspired fashion looks. While immigrant women and families may have been discouraged to find that a life of extravagance and ease, as the “American dream” had promised, may not be a viable option; it was certainly not impossible for these women to adapt to the American culture and find their of versions of luxury.
Immigrant women in this era also saw a change in how the idea of romance and marriage correlated as well as how they were expected to act as wives.
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