Mary Antin

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Mary Antin in 1915

Mary Antin (June 13, 1881May 15, 1949) was an American author and immigration rights activist.


  • All three children carried themselves rather better than the common run of "green" pupils that were brought to Miss Nixon. But the figure that challenged attention to the group was the tall, straight father, with his earnest face and fine forehead, nervous hands eloquent in gesture, and a voice full of feeling. This foreigner, who brought his children to school as if it were an act of consecration, who regarded the teacher of the primer class with reverence, who spoke of visions, like a man inspired, in a common schoolroom, was not like other aliens, who brought their children in dull obedience to the law; was not like the native fathers, who brought their unmanageable boys, glad to be relieved of their care. I think Miss Nixon guessed what my father's best English could not convey. I think she divined that by the simple act of delivering our school certificates to her he took possession of America.

The Promised Land (1912)

  • Outside America I should hardly be believed if I told how simply, in my experience, Dover Street merged into the Back Bay.
    • Ch. 20.
  • It is painful to be consciously of two worlds. The Wandering Jew in me seeks forgetfulness. I am not afraid to live on and on, if only I do not have to remember too much. A long past vividly remembered is like a heavy garment that clings to your limbs when you would run.
    • Introduction
  • A little instruction in the elements of chartography—a little practice in the use of the compass and the spirit level, a topographical map of the town common, an excursion with a road map—would have given me a fat round earth in place of my paper ghost.
    • Ch. 10.
  • A proper autobiography is a death-bed confession. A true man finds so much work to do that he has no time to contemplate his yesterdays; for to-day and to-morrow are here, with their impatient tasks. The world is so busy, too, that it cannot afford to study any man's unfinished work; for the end may prove it a failure, and the world needs masterpieces.
    • Introduction.

Quotes about Mary Antin

  • For Mary Antin and another immigrant Jewish author, Anzia Yezierska, the sacrifices were costly but appeared warranted, the passports to professional success and American identities. Part of a generation bridging Yiddish culture and Yankee experience, Antin and Yezierska passionately described the struggles and changes within the immigrant Jewish family. More than half a century ago, the autobiographical Promised Land and the novel, Bread Givers, anticipated the concerns of such later authors as Tillie Olsen, Grace Paley, Cynthia Ozick, Norma Rosen and Joanne Greenberg.
    • Evelyn Avery, "Oh My 'Mishpocha'! Some Jewish Women Writers from Antin to Kaplan View the Family," Studies in American Jewish Literature 5 (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986), 44-48
  • Mary Antin gave one of the brightest accounts of reaching and penetrating the promised land.
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