Family and Gender Relations

Jewish family working on making garters inside their tenement home. Courtesy of Library of Congress

Courtesy of Jim Cook, a resident of Mexico.













In this portion of the project we will be focusing on the roles of men and women in Mexico and in Eastern Europe and how these roles are affected by immigration. One common aspect for Mexican and Eastern European immigrating families is chain migration. Often men would settle America first, leaving women to provide for and maintain their households in the native country. Through these patterns of immigration we also see a change in the roles played by men and women. Once men leave, women take on new forms of labor. For some women, the intensive labor continues upon their entry into the United States. Women are left vulnerable and constantly aware of their dependence on the men that left them. Although the workload of women may increase, they are still paid lower wages and treated with a lower degree of respect than men.

In exploring the roles of family and gender in the lives of Eastern European Jews, we will particularly study the juxtaposed expectations that fell upon Jewish women. In both Europe and the United States, men possessed more educational and work opportunities which gave them more financial independence in the United States and more authority in the religious and political aspects of shtetl life. However, women were responsible for decision-making in most domestic and secular matters, since they often had to work or raise children to help support their families. Examples from memoirs of early immigrants, such as Mary Antin and Anzia Yezierska will be used to help illustrate this division of power among men and women.

For the Mexico aspect of this project, we will be discussing the difference between the roles of men and women in society. We will be comparing the Mexican “macho” to the “marianismo” view of women. We will explore what it means to be a “macho” and how the definition has developed changing connotations throughout the years. In the past, every Mexican man would strive to be a macho, but nowadays it seems fewer men wish to be known for that title. It is inevitable that with the change of the role of men in Mexican society comes a change of the role of women in society. Although the rights of women have been expanded, and one woman is even in the running for Congress, it is also important to remember how women’s roles and accepted positions in the general public are still not equal to those of men. Another one of our goals is to explore how the position and view of Mexican men and women changes or remains the same upon immigrating into the United States.


Written by:

Victoria Tarasova


Lidiya Kurin

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