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GRAND RAPIDS' ETHNIC WORKING-CLASS WOMEN SUBJECT OF NEW BOOK "THE GRASINSKI GIRLS: THE CHOICES THEY HAD AND THE CHOICES THEY MADE"

April 14, 2005 - The history of white-working class women in Grand Rapids is the subject of the new book, "The Grasinski Girls: The choices They had and The Choices They Made," (Ohio University Press, 2004) written by Mary Erdmans, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology at Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, Connecticut. Erdmans will discuss her new book on Monday, April 25 at 12:30 p.m., in the Loutit Room of Wege Student Center. The talk is free and the public is welcome. Her areas of interest are race and ethnic relations; social movements; field studies; Polish and Polish American studies.

The Grasinski Girls were working-class Americans of Polish descent, born in the 1920s and 1930s, who created lives typical of many women in their day. They went to high school, married, and had children. For the most part, they stayed home to rear their children. And they were happy doing that. They took care of their appearance and their husbands took care of them. Like most women of their generation, they did not join the women's movement, and today they either reject or shy away from feminism.

Using the oral histories of her mother and aunts, Mary Erdmans examines the private lives of these ethnic, Christian, working-class women in the post-World War II generation. She compares them, at times, to women of her own post-feminist generation. Situating these women within the world of home and church, Erdmans explores how gender, class, ethnicity, and religion shaped the choices that the Grasinski sisters were given as well as the choices that they made. These women are both acted upon and actors; they are privileged and disadvantaged; they resist and surrender; they petition the Lord and accept His will.

The Grasinski Girls examines the complexity of ordinary lives, making visible hidden privileges, and bringing to light the nuances of oppression that often have been overlooked. Erdmans brings rigorous scholarship and familial insight to bear on the realities of twentieth-century white ethnic America. She succeeds brilliantly in examining the life stories of a particular group of white working class women.