Monday, July 29, 2019

Democracy and Americanization

“Democracy is a word in quotation marks instead of a factor in life with too many native Americans.” – Mary Antin was an immigrant, an author and an immigration rights activist. She is best known for her 1912 autobiography The Promised Land, an account of her emigration and subsequent Americanization.

Says Americans Should Learn to Be Neighborly

Mary Antin, famous author, lecturer, and Russian immigrant, says: “There will be no problems of immigration when American citizens learn the lesson of neighborliness. There are almost as many native Americans who need to be Americanized as there are foreigners. Democracy is a word in quotation marks instead of a factor in life with too many native Americans. Where there are ghettoes there are no free women. But ghettoes can meet only ultimate obliteration in America.” With an eloquent plea to “open the doors to those who knock at our gates,” and denying any possible terrors in immigration problems, Mary Antin, foremost woman writer in America, noted lecturer, and naturalized Russian immigrant, arrived in Los Angeles today, where she will remain for the remainder of the week.

A mere slip of a person, with boyish slimness and a happy smile for California sunshine, Miss Antin (in private life wife of Andrew Graham, Columbia university professor) was a surprise to the delegation of city teachers who met her at the train. Only in the intense, tragic blue eyes does the woman portray the dramatic emotion with which she has swayed thousands by her books, “The Promised Land,” “They Who Knock at Our Gates,” or reveal the tremendous life tragedies which she has witnessed and participated in, with the Russian Jews in their native land.

Must Learn Neighborliness

While at first refusing to discuss immigration, Miss Antin finally declared; “It can be summed up in a word or two. There will be no problem of immigration when each individual American citizen learns the lesson of true neighborliness—not that of a convention halls, but of every day life. Talk about foreigners learning our customs and manners! It is Americans’ duty to learn theirs, to extend hospitality and neighborliness to the foreigner within the gate—and behold! There will be no longer any problem. But the trouble is that too many native Americans need to be Americanized. Democracy is only a word in quotation marks to them—not a principle of life.” – Los Angeles Herald, 1915

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

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