Antin, Mary The Promised Land

ISBN 13: 9780136011415

The Promised Land

9780136011415: The Promised Land

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Editor's comments on new edition of Mary Antin
Mary Antin, The Promised Land, first published in 1912 by the prestigious Boston firm Houghton Mifflin Company, after excerpts of it had appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, is the most famous American immigrant autobiography. Its author Mary Antin was born on 13 June 1881 in Polotzk, the daughter of Israel and Esther Weltman Antin. Three years after her father emigrated from Russia to the United States, the mother followed with the four children, arriving in Boston on the Polynesia on 8 May 1894. From that time on, Mary Antin1s life was deeply intertwined with Boston. The Jewish-American Antin family lived first on Union Place, then in Revere, and later on Arlington Street in Chelsea where Mary and the younger siblings started to go to Public School, whereas her sister "Fetchke/Frieda" (or Fannie, her later married name was Lasser) who was only a year older than Mary had to work as a seamstress. Mary Antin's teacher Mary S. Dillingham brought about her first publication of the composition "Snow" (the original of which is at the Boston Public Library) in the journal Primary Education. The publication of an Antin poem on George Washington in the Boston Herald followed. It was through writing letters that Antin began her career as a writer of books. Shortly after the transatlantic voyage Mary wrote a long and detailed account for her maternal uncle Mosche Hayyim Weltman. It was Miss Dillingham and her father, who, she writes "between them persuaded" her to translate the Yiddish letter. Later the philanthropist Hattie Hecht connected Antin with Philip Cowen and Israel Zangwill, and the result was an English adaptation of the letter (with the help of Reform Rabbi Solomon Schindler) in the American Hebrew. In 1899, it appeared as a book that misspelled the name of her home town, From Plotzk to Boston, with a glowing introduction by Zangwill, who was to become best known for his popular melodrama The Melting-Pot (1908). The essayist Josephine Lazarus--Emma Lazarus's sister--reviewed the volume for the Critic and became friends with Antin who had also been admitted by the headmaster Mr. Tuttle (called Tetlow in The Promised Land) to the prestigious Boston Latin School for Girls. The family had moved from a gloomy apartment at 11 Wheeler Street (later torn down and replaced by Turnpike Towers) to the slum on Dover Street (now East Berkeley Street), and Mary associated with the South End Settlement House of Edward Everett Hale--famous for such works as "The Man Without a Country" (1863)--sat model for his daughter Ellen Day Hale, and became a member of the Natural History Club. There she met Amadeus William Grabau (1870-1946) who was finishing his doctoral work in geology and paleontology at Harvard. They were married, apparently against Antin1s father1s wishes, in Boston on 5 October 1901, and soon took up residence in New York where Grabau was appointed first as a lecturer and in 1905 as professor at Columbia University. Antin never finished Latin School, and therefore could only take a few college courses as a special student. Their daughter, Antin's only child Josephine Esther Grabau, was born on 21 November 1907. On Antin's 30th birthday, the Grabaus moved to a large house in Scarsdale where several of Antin's relatives, among them her sister Fannie Lasser also lived with them. It was during her Scarsdale years that Antin published short stories, essays, and her books The Promised Land (1912) and They Who Knock at Our Gates (1914), with a combined sale of over 100,000. After some successful years as a writer and Progressive lecturer (who was booked by the Boston agency The Players), Antin suffered a nervous breakdown, her marriage broke up, and she lived in poorer circumstances in later years, published little, and died on 15 May 1949. Her husband left Columbia University in 1919 and went to teach in China where he died in 1946.

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