Mary Antin

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Mary Antin
Antin in 1915
Antin in 1915
BornMary Antin
June 13, 1881
Polsk horray, Vitebsk Governorate, Russian Empire
DiedMay 15, 1949(1949-05-15) (aged 67)
Suffern, New York
Alma mater
  • Teachers College, Columbia University (1901–1902)
  • Barnard College (1902–1904)
Notable worksThe Promised Land
SpouseAmadeus William Grabau (m. Oct. 5, 1901)
ChildrenJosephine Esther[2]
Mary Antin (Mashke) and sister Fetchke, as young children

Mary Antin (born Maryashe Antin; June 13, 1881 – May 15, 1949) was an American author and immigration rights activist. She is best known for her 1912 autobiography The Promised Land, an account of her emigration and subsequent Americanization.


Mary Antin was the second of six children born to Israel and Esther Weltman Antin, a Jewish family living in Polotsk, in the Vitebsk Governorate of the Russian Empire (present-day Belarus). Israel Antin emigrated to Boston in 1891, and three years later he sent for Mary and her mother and siblings.[3]

The family moved from Chelsea to Ward 8 in Boston's South End, a notorious slum, as the venue of Israel's store changed. She attended Girls' Latin School, now Boston Latin Academy, after finishing primary school.[citation needed]

She married Amadeus William Grabau, a geologist, in 1901, and moved to New York City where she attended Teachers College of Columbia University and Barnard College. Antin is best known for her 1912 autobiography The Promised Land, which describes her public school education and assimilation into American culture, as well as life for Jews in Czarist Russia. After its publication, Antin lectured on her immigrant experience to many audiences across the country, and became a major supporter for Theodore Roosevelt and his Progressive Party.[citation needed]

During World War I, while she campaigned for the Allied cause, her husband's pro-German activities precipitated their separation and her physical breakdown. Amadeus was forced to leave his post at Columbia University to work in China, where he became "the father of Chinese geology." She was never physically strong enough to visit him there.

During World War II, Amadeus was interned by the Japanese and died shortly after his release in 1946. Mary Antin died of cancer on May 15, 1949.[1][2]


She is commemorated on the Boston Women's Heritage Trail.[4]


All three children carried themselves rather better than the common run of "green" pupils that were brought to Miss Nixon. But the figure that challenged attention to the group was the tall, straight father, with his earnest face and fine forehead, nervous hands eloquent in gesture, and a voice full of feeling. This foreigner, who brought his children to school as if it were an act of consecration, who regarded the teacher of the primer class with reverence, who spoke of visions, like a man inspired, in a common schoolroom, was not like other aliens, who brought their children in dull obedience to the law; was not like the native fathers, who brought their unmanageable boys, glad to be relieved of their care. I think Miss Nixon guessed what my father's best English could not convey. I think she divined that by the simple act of delivering our school certificates to her he took possession of America. . . .[5]


  1. ^ a b Nadell, Pamela S. "Mary Antin". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
  2. ^ a b "Amadeus William Grabau". Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1974. Gale Document Number: GALE BT2310012533 – via Fairfax County Public Library. Biography in Context. (subscription required)
  3. ^ Nadell, Pamela S. "Mary Antin profile". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
  4. ^ "Mary Antin". Boston Women's Heritage Trail.
  5. ^ Making an American. Written by Mary Antin. Stan wrote this (Crash Course)

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