MARY ANTIN Biography - Writers


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Mary Antin was born on June 13, 1881, in Polotzk, Russia, the daughter of Israel   
and Esther Weltman Antin. Her father emigrated to the United States in 1891, and   
three years later the mother followed with the four children, arriving in Boston   
on the Polynesia on May 8, 1894. The Antin family eventually settled on             
Arlington Street in Chelsea, where Mary and the younger siblings started to go     
to public school; her older sister had to work as a seamstress. Mary Antin's       
teacher brought about her first published work, the composition "Snow," in the     
journal Primary Education.                                                         
Shortly after the transatlantic voyage, Mary wrote a long and detailed account     
of it in Yiddish for her uncle. Later, the philanthropist Hattie Hecht             
introduced Antin to Philip Cowen and Israel Zangwill, and the result was the       
publication of an English adaptation of the letter in the American Hebrew. In       
1899, it appeared as a book that misspelled the name of her hometown, From         
Plotzk to Boston, with a glowing introduction by Zangwill. The essayist             
Josephine Lazarus?Emma Lazarus' sister?reviewed the volume for the Critic and       
became friends with Antin, who had been admitted to the prestigious Boston Latin   
School for girls. The family now lived in the Dover Street slum, and Mary           
associated with the South End Settlement House of Edward Everett Hale. She sat     
as a model for his daughter Ellen Day Hale, and became a member of the Natural     
History Club. There she met Amadeus William Grabau (1870-1946), who was             
finishing his doctoral work in geology and paleontology at Harvard. They were       
married in Boston on October 5, 1901, and soon took up residence in New York,       
where Grabau became a professor at Columbia University. Antin never finished       
Latin School, and therefore could only take a few college courses as a special     
student. Their dauther, Josephine Esther Grabau, Antin's only child, was born on   
November 21, 1907. Antin publshed short stories essays, and her books The           
Promised Land (1912) and They Who Knock at Our Gates (1914), which together sold   
more than one hundred thousand copies. After some successful years as a writer     
and Progressive lecturer, Antin suffered a nervous breakdown, and she and Grabau   
separated. She lived in pooer circumstances in later years, publishing little,     
and died on May 15, 1949.