In this deftly researched ethnographic portrait, Suzanne M. Sinke skillfully adapts the concept of social reproduction to examine the shifting gender roles of tens of thousands of Dutch Protestant women who crossed the Atlantic from 1880 to 1920 to make new homes in the United States. Examining the domain of the home as well as the related realms of education, religion, healthcare, and worldview, Sinke discerns women's contributions to the creation and adaptation of families and communities, pointing out how they differed from those of men. Through Sinke's articulate and captivating descriptions of real women, the statistical evidence comes to life, providing valuable and heretofore unexamined views on the international marriage market, language shifts, the acquisition of American customs, the church's role in adaptation, and the shifting economies that allowed women to work outside of the home. A parallel analysis of the United States and the Netherlands as developing welfare states provides a fascinating look at what Dutch immigrant women left behind compared to what they faced in America regarding healthcare, education, and quality-of-life issues.
Lively and absorbing, the stories of these women's lives are told largely in their own words as preserved in personal letters and diaries. Supplemented by photographs and accounts from archived interviews and Dutch American newspapers, each chapter includes an in-depth portrait of one Dutch immigrant woman and multiple examples from the lives of others. Effectively giving voice to the women who shaped Dutch American culture, "Dutch Immigrant Women in the United States, 1880-1920" is an important and groundbreaking contribution to immigration and women's history.