The United States of America has always been a country of great opportunities and many people tried to start a new life there. Immigrants from all over the world have come to the New World in their search for better life. In the first part of the twentieth century, the vast majority of immigrants first came to such immigration stations as Angel Island or Ellis Island. All those people also had similar experiences in the new country that was hostile to them. It is possible to compare experiences of Lithuanian and Chinese immigrants coming to the USA in the 1910s to understand whether all ethnic groups faced similar issues.
When analyzing similarities and differences between Lithuanian and Chinese immigrants, it is possible to start with the reasons they came. It is clear that these people had similar reasons to come to a free country. At the beginning of the twentieth century, China and Russia were empires with oppressive rulers. People living in those countries were often pursued for their religious beliefs, political views. People living in both countries were often inhabitants of rural places and they could hardly make ends meet.
Admittedly, those who came to the United State were ready to work hard and live (as well as work) in harsh conditions just to be able to support their families. It is also noteworthy that Chinese immigrants tended to come to the west states and especially to California where their first stop was Angel Island (Lee and Yung 8). It is noteworthy that the Angel Island Immigration Station was created to “address San Francisco’s unique status as the primary entryway for Chinese coming” to the US (Lee and Yung 8). At the same time, Lithuanian came to eastern states (for example, Illinois). This difference can be explained by the location of the immigrants’ home countries and availability of certain routes.
Another important aspect of an immigrant life is availability of jobs. This is aspect is associated with numerous similarities as both Chinese and Lithuanians had to accept low-paid jobs. It is important to note that, in the 1910s, Americans supported the idea to “close the gates” to all immigrants irrespective of their ethnicity and social status (qtd. in Lee and Yung 7). Clearly, they were unwanted. The majority of immigrants could hardly speak English and, of course, they often “had not any idea of any rights that” they had “except the right to hunt for a job” (Sinclair 48). Both ethnic groups had few options and had to accept low-paid jobs involving manual labor.
However, there were some differences that were mainly due to peculiarities of the states they were living in. Thus, Lithuanians worked mainly in slaughterhouses, coalmines, sugar refineries, steel mills and so on. Whereas, Chinese immigrants involved in mining, domestic services, laundry services. It is noteworthy that Chinese immigrants often had small businesses (small shops or restaurants). This was often the result of work of previous generation who managed to earn enough during Gold Rush. Besides, quite wealthy Chinese people could immigrate to the USA. For instance, an example of the young wealthy Chinese man who was favorably accepted by immigration officers (Lee and Yung 1).
It is also important to note that many immigrants were unable to find their place in the new country and ended up involved in illegal activities or committed suicide. Thus, women were often raped or forced into prostitution. For instance, Chinese prostitution was “a lucrative and successful business” and, hence, women were often abused and made prostitutes (Lee and Yung 75). When it comes to Lithuanian female immigrants, they were also victims of violence and sexual abuse and men often raped them or made women have sex with them giving jobs in return (Sinclair 89).
Apart from difficulties with earning their living, both ethnic groups were often discriminated. As has been mentioned above, Americans did not want to see new comers. Americans were afraid that the immigrants would take their jobs, as unemployment rate in the USA in the early twentieth century was quite high. Hence, it is possible to assume that both ethnic groups faced the same constraints as they could not find decent jobs and could not afford many things. At the same time, there was a significant difference. Chinese faced more opposition due to their appearance. They looked differently and, hence, it was easier to spot them as they stood out against the crowd.
In conclusion, it is possible to note that Lithuanian and Chinese immigrants had similar as well as different experiences in the USA in the early 20th century. Both ethnic groups had quite similar reasons to come to the USA as they were often pursued in their home countries. They also had difficulties with finding decent jobs and making enough money to provide for their families. They were often abused, neglected and discriminated. Clearly, the life of an immigrant in the 1910s was very hard and many people could not survive and died or returned home. Nonetheless, there were also numerous success stories and those stories became the basis for development of the multinational American society.
Lee, Erika, and Judy Yung. Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print.
Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2001. Print.