Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Twice Told Tuesday - Where Bad Citizens Are Made

Twice Told Tuesday features a photography related article reprinted from
my collection of old photography books, magazines, and newspapers.

Wouldn't You Hate America If It Met You This Way?
By Marie De Montalvo and Rose Falls Bres
The Delineator
March 1921

Read this story of what women and children endure at Ellis Island, where many immigrants get their first taste of America. Then, while you are still boiling with the sense of injustice and outraged decency, write your congressman that conditions must be changed.

Talk the cause of these immigrant women and children in your church. It will not stand for this gross violation of Christian principles. Talk it in your club. The hatred that Ellis Island breeds is spreading like a plague to increase the discontent which menaces our institutions and the Government itself.

Like A Vision
The Great City Rises
Before The Newcomers
Kingstone View Company

Do you know what happens at Ellis Island, in the shadow of the Statute of Liberty, to the women who come to America from other lands because they think that this is the land of freedom, of justice, of plenty - women whose only crime is poverty, whose only offense is ignorance of our language and our ways?

Never mind the millions of men who are pouring into this country, and the millions more who are waiting over there to come, some with passports, waiting for a few inches of space on some American-bound ship, and millions more still waiting for passports. They constitute a problem of enormous importance - but we can leave it to the men. The thing that concerns the women of this country is that the proportion of women coming to this country is increasing and nothing is being done about it.

National and international problems are coming to a point of confusion and complexity which makes us feel that a man who seems to know what he thinks must be mistaken. Immigration is one of the complicated problems about which people think and feel, and hardly any one knows anything. Yet it may be possible to make one assertion which we can all agree to:

There are just two things to do with the immigrant - keep him out or treat him fairly.

Now, women of America! Do you know that women surrounded with children, carrying babies, squeezed into airless rooms among men, are found to stand day after day and week after week waiting for a man with a megaphone to yell their unpronounceable names at them so that they may know their relatives have come for them?

Do you know that after they disembark at Ellis Island they are pushed and jostled and shouted at and bullied by so-called "officials" whose qualification for the job seems invariably to have been a harsh voice and a hot temper?

Do you know that women with babies and luggage are forced to stand in line for at least half a day, and sometimes several days, and negotiate flights of stairs carrying with them everything they own on earth, before they pass their physical examinations which could all be performed much more quickly and effectively on the same floor?

Two thousand Men, women and children remained five days at
Ellis Island recently without bunks, and had to lie on the floor or sit
up all night, six squeezed together on each bench.
Brown Bros.

Do you know that there are 2,000 bunks on Ellis Island, provided with two blankets apiece; that because detained immigrants must be segregated into classes, only 1,500 of these beds are available - since if there are only 10 Chinese and the dormitory for the Chinese hold twenty-five, the remaining 15 bunks must remain empty rather than fill them with white people - and that recently on the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, 3,500 men, women, and children were without bunks and had to lie on the floor or sit up all night, six squeezed together on each bench?

Do you know that there is no place for women to wash themselves, their clothes and their babies, except at a sink out in the public hall? And no place to dry their clothes except strung over lines strung over their bunks in the unventilated dormitories, with bunks four deep up and down the walls, where they must remain anywhere from a single night to a year?

Can you imagine the mental attitude of government employees who stopped up the faucets in the eating halls because they might drip on the floors if immigrants were allowed to drink water with their meals?

Have you a picture of a baby whose underclothing remains unchanged for so long that its skin peels off with its garments when they are finally removed?

Do you know the inadequacy of the sanitary arrangements - such that a visitor hates to inspect them because their awful presence is made known long before they are visible to the eye?

In brief, do you smell Ellis Island when you read these words?

To Be Continued!
Next Twice Told Tuesday


Magazine and Photographs

"Where Bad Citizens Are Made."The Delineator, March 1921, 8.


Blogger Kristin said...

Horrible. The least gets the worst time after time.

August 16, 2011 at 3:19 PM  
Blogger Linda Gartz said...

I just came across this on Christmas Day, and have to admit -- I hadn't realized how horrid the conditions at Ellis Island were. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Low paid bureaucrats who actually have POWER over someone and isn't it grand to be able to exercise that power by causing suffering and gloating at the conditions these poor women and children probably "deserve" if they are poor and want to come to this country. A tale told over and over. The endurance and fortitude it took to survive these conditions and humiliation and keep going is may be one of the traits that allowed the descendants of these suffering women to make good. (either that or go bad). I hope they are all prosperous today and their Great-great grandmothers' would be proud of the sacrifices they made.

December 25, 2011 at 9:49 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Linda - It certainly makes you stop and think about what our ancestors endured to be able to come to this country.

Merry Christmas


December 25, 2011 at 10:41 AM  

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