In this carefully researched and engaging book, Kenneth Scambray surveys the lives and contributions of Italian immigrants in thirteen western states. He covers a variety of topics, including the role of the Roman Catholic Church in attracting and facilitating Italian settlement; the economic, political, and cultural contributions made by Italians; and the efforts to preserve Italian culture and to restore connections to their ancestral identity.
The lives of immigrants in the West differed greatly from those of their counterparts on the East Coast in many ways. The development of the West–with its cheap land and mining, forestry, and agriculture industries\–created a demand for labor that enabled newcomers to achieve stability and success. Moreover, female immigrants had many more opportunities to contribute materially to their family’s well-being, either by overseeing new revenue streams for their farms and small businesses, or as paid workers outside the home.
Despite this success, Italian immigrants in the West could not escape the era’s xenophobia. Scambray also discusses the ways that Italians, perceived by many as non-White, interacted with other Euro-Americans, other immigrant groups, and Native Americans and African Americans.
By placing the Italian immigrant experience within the context of other immigrant narratives, Italian Immigration in the American West provides rich insights into the lives and contributions of individuals and families who sought to build new lives in the West. This unique study reveals the impact of Italian immigration and the immense diversity of the immigrant experience outside the East’s urban centers.