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Antin, Mary


ANTIN, MARY (1881–1949), Polish-born U.S. author. Antin immigrated to Boston in 1894, publishing her first poem in the Boston Herald while still at elementary school and her first book, From Plotsk to Boston (1899), at age 18. An eloquent Progressive whose books also included the classic immigrant autobiography The Promised Land (1912) and They Who Knock at Our Gates (1914), Antin saw herself as the social representation of those who had likewise fled from persecution to freedom. Her life exemplified the increasing elasticity of Jewish identity in modern American culture. Antin married Amadeus W. Grabau, a German-American Lutheran geologist and paleontologist, in 1901 and the couple had one child. Antin had to relinquish her goal of attending Radcliffe College when her husband assumed a professorship at Columbia University; she studied at Columbia's Teachers College and at Barnard College but did not complete a degree, apparently due to illness and the realities of domestic life that made it difficult for women of her time to combine marriage and motherhood. The marriage later collapsed over Grabau's support for Germany in wwi and conflict generated by Antin's national celebrity and financial success. Antin was an eclectic thinker who maintained a Jewish identity and some Jewish practices while exploring other forms of spirituality. Initially enthralled by the writings of Thoreau, Emerson, and Darwin, in later life she was attracted to Christian mysticism and spent parts of her final years as a disciple of Meher Baba and Rudolf Steiner. Her popularity as a writer and lecturer waned and her success was followed by writer's block and years of hardship, when she supported herself by doing social work.


A. Mazur, A Romance in Natural History: The Lives and Works of Amadeus Grabau and Mary Antin (2004); P.S. Nadell, "Introduction," to Mary Antin, From Plotzk to Boston (1986); E. Salz (ed.), Selected Letters of Mary Antin (2000); W. Sollors, "Introduction" to Mary Antin, The Promised Land (1997).

[Keren R. McGinity (2nd ed.)]

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