Author: Mary Antin

Mary Antin, c. 1912

Born to a Jewish family in a small Russian town just before the turn of the 20th century, Mary Antin (1881–1949) came with her mother, two sisters, and a brother to join her father—who had emigrated three years earlier out of economic necessity—in the United States. Antin and her family spent their early years in America moving from crowded slum to crowded slum, living in gloomy tenements alongside dark alleys littered with gamblers, junkies, and drunks. After moving to New York City to attend Teachers College at Columbia University and Barnard College, Antin published an account of her immigrant experience in her 1912 autobiography The Promised Land. In the book, she details her experiences in American public schools and describes how she and her family assimilated into American culture. 

Making an American

Mary Antin

This selection from her autobiography (1912) offers a particularly moving example of what learning about George Washington meant to Mary Antin (1881–1949), a young girl who at age 13 arrived in the United States from Polotsk, a small town in Russia, just before the turn of the 20th century.