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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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Background Essay on Late 19th and Early 20th Century Immigration

This summary of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century immigration describes the "new immigration" that originated from Southern and Eastern Europe. The essay also outlines American responses to the new wave of immigration, including some of [...]

Background Essay on Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl

This essay explains the significance of young female immigrants in the labor upheavals that helped define the Progressive Era.

Active Viewing: Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl

In this activity, students watch the documentary Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl in sections, with documents and exercises designed to support and reinforce the film's key concepts: workers challenging the effects of industrial capitalism, the [...]

A Doctor Decries the Public Health Danger of Immigrants

Starting in the 1890s, many Americans feared that the arrival of large numbers of immigrants from countries in Eastern and Southern Europe was bad for society. They claimed that immigrants could not easily assimilate, or fit in, and that they were [...]

A Congressman Denounces Immigration Quotas as "Un-American" (short version, with text supports)

Restrictions on immigration, largely aimed at would-be migrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, gained considerable popular support during the 1920s. Anti-immigrant sentiment culminated in the Quota Act of 1921, which effectively reduced [...]

Immigrants by the Numbers

In this activity, students work with quantitative data (charts, graphs, and tables) from the 1910 census and the 1911 Dillingham Commission Report to understand the lives of immigrants in the Ellis Island era. The activity includes an option [...]

Chart of First Generation Immigrant Women's Occupations, 1900

In 1907, Congress formed the Dillingham Commission to investigate the origins and effects of the massive wave of immigration then underway. The Commission compiled a variety of data about immigrants and their children. This chart shows the [...]

The Pay Envelope: A Role Play

In this activity students perform a role play of immigrant mothers and daughters arguing over who should get to keep the daughter's wages. This activity is used to teach with the film Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl, but can be completed [...]

A Congressman Denounces Immigration Quotas as "Un-American"

Restrictions on immigration, largely aimed at would-be migrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, gained considerable popular support during the 1920s. Anti-immigrant sentiment culminated in the Quota Act of 1921, which effectively reduced [...]

"The Balloon Man"

As this photograph of a Jewish balloon man on Dupont Street shows, there were many non-Chinese peddlers in San Francisco's Chinatown. Chinatown was a popular tourist destination in the late 19th century, and many peddlers sold novelty goods to [...]