publications

Becoming American

For many immigrants to this country, becoming “American” was a top priority. While some

longed for the ways of the old country, many embraced the new ways America had to offer.

In her study of German-Russian immigrant women in Lincoln at the turn of the century,

University of Nebraska sociologist Hattie Plum Williams found that many women learned

new ways working in “American” homes. Her manuscript on file at the State Historical

Society notes “this day labor in American homes is one of the greatest assimilative forces

which exists. Its chief influence is on the language, the increase of desires, and the position

of women in the homes. There are few women in the settlement (except new immigrants)

who have gone out to work who cannot speak English intelligibly, and most of them can

speak far better than their husbands because many of the latter work in groups of their own

countrymen and speak only German.



“The introduction of new desires and their rapid multiplication is one of the means of

progress for the immigrant. It raises his standard of living, transforms his environment, and

broadens his mental and spiritual horizon by tempting him to choose among a vast array of

things set before him. The democratic constitution of our society places no limits upon the

satisfaction of these desires. If ‘Katie’ wants a fur coat like her employer’s or window curtains

or rugs, there is no sentiment in the community to hinder her from having it; it all depends

upon whether she wants to spend her money that way. Mahogany tables and chiffonniers,

brass beds, walnut bedroom sets, and other luxuries of the best homes in Lincoln are

duplicated in homes of the settlement. The excellent taste in color and floor furnishings and

furniture testify to the teachableness and keen observation of these women.



“The place of women in the American home is as carefully noted as are her household

possessions. Women who were accustomed to accept beatings from their husbands as the

natural order of events find out that the practice is not tolerated in this country, and soon

learn to call the police and have their belligerent husbands given thirty or ninety days in jail.

If conditions in the home become intolerable (from the American viewpoint) it is not

infrequent to find the employer ushering the Russian-German woman through the mysteries

of police or divorce court and securing her rights under the law. It is this ‘evil’ influence upon

their women folk which leads the older Russian-German men to base their chief objection to

America, on the grounds that ‘the women in this country have too much say about things.'”



 

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Other Publications

The Bachelors’ Protective Union of Kearney

When the Bachelors' Protective Union gave a gala reception for two of its newly married, former members and their brides in March of 1890, the social club for young, ...

U.S. Weather Bureau in 1890s Nebraska

The U.S. Weather Bureau was established by an act of Congress on October 1, 1890. It took over the weather service that had been established in the office of the Chief ...

Canning the Way to Victory

During American participation in World War I the U.S. Food Administration, under the direction of Herbert Hoover, launched a massive campaign to persuade Americans to ...

The Shoemaker’s Ashes

"Edward Kuehl, one of the most peculiar characters that ever lived in Omaha, or anywhere else, was found dead in his bed last night in the back room of his place of ...

Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger Foreward

Red Dog, an Oglala Lakota who lived at the Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, 1876-77 (Nebraska State Historical Society RG2955.ph).   In the summer of 1876, following the ...

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), a native Nebraskan, produced some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. He helped found 20th Century Fox ...

The Burlington’s Profitable Pork Special

Nebraska railroads were much concerned with developing an adequate economy in the areas they served. The Burlington, for example, had a long history of caring for the ...

Bungalow Filling Stations

After the giant Standard Oil Company was broken into thirty-four separate companies in 1911, the newly independent Standard Oil of Nebraska dominated the state's market ...

The Bull Fight

This is the perfect time of year for a visit to the old fishin' hole. But a group of fisherfolk from Plainview discovered that this bucolic pastime sometimes has ...

Buffalo Soldiers West

African-American soldiers on the western frontier are the focus of an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Buffalo Soldiers West, on loan from the Colorado ...

Protection for Buffalo

The extermination of the buffalo on the Plains occurred largely between 1870 and 1885. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on February 1, 1874, editorialized in vain ...

Buffalo Hunting

In late October 1877 young Rolf Johnson and three friends left their homes in Phelps County, Nebraska, for a buffalo hunt in northeastern Colorado. The hunt was not very ...
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