The history of Dawson is told through the story of several immigrant women who lived and worked there. What was it like to be an immigrant woman in a Rocky Mountain coaltown in the first part of the 20th century? What obstacles did they face and have to overcome? As they raised their families and worked to sustain them, what dreams did they have for themselves and their loved ones in this new land?
Between 1876 and 1926, 9 million Italians immigrated to the United States. Italy was a new country but it was also a weak one. The majority of the country was poor and there was little respect for the government. From the mountain towns outside of Modena, in north-central Italy, a large number of families made their way across the Atlantic Ocean, to Ellis Island, seeking a new life. Some of them would eventually settle in Dawson. Our family would arrive in America a few days after Thanksgiving, in 1905.
In 1897 a revolt against the Turks in Crete led to war between Greece and the Ottoman Empire, and then to self-governance for Crete. Notwithstanding this, conditions in Greece were difficult, and many Greeks immigrated to the United States. Our Greek would leave her family in Crete to travel to America. With WWI brewing on the horizon, she would be fortunate to escape Europe. But the Greek community in Dawson would be second to the Italian, in losses in the mining disasters to come.
In 1908 a young woman and her cousin left for America, journeying to marry men they had never met before, but who had requested brides from their home town. Eventually arriving in Dawson, she would begin a new adventure. She would raise a family of five children, lose a husband to the coalmines, and through sheer determination and hard will, eventually send all her children to univeristy in New Mexico.
The Mexican revolution of 1910 brought a time of political change and instability to Mexico. Up to one million Mexicans fled north into the United States, but they weren’t always welcomed with open arms. In New Mexico, old Spanish families looked down on the new arrivals, as did some of their compatriots. Nonetheless, many pushed on, pushing aside the ethnic stereotypes and economic discrimination, to find a more stable life for their families in Dawson.