Monday, December 31, 2012

A New Beginning


Doesn't everyone wish for a new beginning? At least in some aspect of life? For some reason the dawn of a new year motivates most people to try something new, do something better, or toss away some vices.

Why did the immigrants of the early 20th century come to America? For most it was to start anew. As hard as life was for most immigrants, it was far worse where they came from. With few opportunities to make their way in life, they took a chance on the American dream. You've heard stories, I'm sure, of many (even today) who were very successful. For a lot of immigrants, the dream was realized not for them, but for their children who were born in America.

From the National Parks Service, this chart shows the numbers and nationalities who immigrated through Ellis Island. The numbers were way down during WWI, but other than those years hundreds of thousands came every year, looking for a new life.

In my first novel of the Ellis Island Series, Grace's Pictures, my character Grace was taken to a poor house in Ireland when her widowed mother could not pay the rent on their cottage. Later, she was sponosored and sent to America. She had no choice but to start anew in America, but she soon found more opportunity to improve her life standing than she could have ever imagined. And freedom to wander the streets if she wanted, whenever she wanted--something that had been impossible in the poor house. But this freedom gets her into trouble when she takes along her new Brownie camera.

I imagine immigrants like Grace were completely unprepared for both the good and the bad in the massive city of New York.

What do you think?