Celebrate Immigration

Posted By:  Liz Goodrich
Date Posted:  1/14/2004

Elizabeth Reis, Assistant Professor at the U of O will share her grandmother’s story of immigration on January 24th at 2:00 p.m. in the Library Admin Conference Room at 507 NW Wall.

Ellis Island opened on January 1, 1892. Before closing in 1954, more than 20 million individuals took their first steps towards the American Dream through the halls of Ellis Island. One of those immigrants was Leona Tamarkin, the grandmother of Reis. “For many years I have assigned my grandmother’s story, Dear Lizzie, to my undergraduate classes in United States Women’s History,” says Reis. Few students know before hand that the narrator is Reis’ grandmother. “My students cannot believe that, despite overwhelming adversity, the girl in the narrative grew up.” Leona’s ordeal as a Jewish immigrant began during the First World War. She came to the United States in the 1920’s, where she raised five children. Reis says her grandmother’s story resonates with the common experiences of immigration, including determination, boldness and the will to live, in spite of confining circumstances. Leona’s story brings immediacy and humanity to distant historical events. “What began as a letter to her 15-year-old granddaughter offers a story too painful to say out loud but too important to be left unsaid,” says Reis.

Elizabeth Reis, an Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies and History, is also the author of Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England. She is the editor of Spellbound: Women and Witchcraft in America and American Sexual Histories: A Blackwell Reader in American Social and Cultural History. This program is sponsored in part by the Center for the Study of Women in Society, University of Oregon and is free and open to the public. For more information, call 312-1032.

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