Cohen spent several summers at a Connecticut retreat for immigrant children, working on the staff of the home.
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She found employment on one occasion in a cooperative garment shop with a Miss O'There a thinly veiled Leonora O'Reilly, to whom the autobiography is dedicated. She met upper-class friends of her benefactor and felt increasingly alienated from the world of the Russian immigrant Jewish world she had known. At the story's end, Cohen was no longer the wide-eyed immigrant girl who had debarked at Castle Garden ten years earlier, but neither was she well integrated into the American world she found so appealing. She took pride in her family's accomplishments, as her father moved from tailoring to running a small grocery store, with crucial help from a sister, while one brother gained admission to Columbia University.
She, herself, though was uprooted and uncertain. As she related her experiences in the autobiography, she had no interest in marriage nor had she clear prospects that would have permitted her to support herself in the future. Although she had married and given birth to a daughter, Evelyn, before the publication of Out of the Shadow , there is no hint of husband or daughter in her account. She drew her narrative to an inconclusive closing with very cursory descriptions of her father, sister, and brother. She herself had faded out of focus.
Out of the Shadow appeared in and Rose Cohen continued to publish short stories in succeeding years. Her last publications appeared in , and she spent the summers of and at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, N. At that point the document trail runs out except for a Rolodex entry from the records of the MacDowell Colony noting a date for Cohen's death. Whether she died or committed suicide we will probably never know for sure. We know that she had separated from her husband in these last years; we know that publication of her writing had slowed down or stopped.
We can see in her autobiography an uncertainty and lack of confidence that speak to some confusion about her own identity and sense of purpose in life. She seemed most at home exploring the world of her Russian childhood and her changing identity on the Lower East Side. In the end, she seemed never to have made a sure transition into a new American identity. We have a poignant account of her old-world origins and new-world struggle that speaks to readers in the early twenty-first century as it did to her contemporaries eighty years ago.
Her life, like that of contemporaries of her immigrant generation, defies easy generalization. Still the window she opened up on herself and her times offers compelling views for readers today of a world that has shaped our own and into processes that continue to operate with new generations of immigrants in our own times.
Rose Cohen's autobiography, Out of the Shadow , was first published in and documents the experience of a Jewish immigrant family and specifically a young Jewish immigrant woman working in the textile industry. Jewish Women's Archive. This website is made possible by generous donations from users like you. Please consider making a gift before our June 30 fiscal year end. Thank you!
On the Lower East Side?inalrichhay.cf
An American Girlhood
Why does she observe of life on the Lower East Side that "on the whole we were still in our village in Russia? Starting life in the new country disrupted many older habits of behavior, beliefs, and relationships. Rose's account suggests several areas of change for Russian Jews in the course of the immigration process. What changes in relations among generations are depicted in the book? How does immigration exacerbate the normal disturbances between parents and children?
How do Rose's experiences differ from those of today's immigrants? What religious changes are evident for the Gollup family between life in Russia and on the Lower East Side? How do gender roles and interrelations between men and women change with resettlement and accommodation for Jews on the Lower East Side? How did Rose Cohen's sense of the relationship between her mother and grandmother affect her thinking when considering marriage to Israel, the Broome Street grocer to whom she was briefly engaged? What sort of change is revealed by the comparisons that Rose made in her mind?
The intervention of Lillian Wald, founder of the Henry St. Settlement sometimes called the Visiting Nurses Settlement changes Rose's life in many ways. Rose wrote: "Miss Wald comes to our house, and a new world opens for us. What does Rose learn through knowing Lillian Wald? What world does she glimpse that she hadn't known?
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