Mirjam Milharčič Hladnik, Jernej Mlekuž
For over a century, migrant women from Slovenia wrote and received letters, posted packages and money, sometimes a lot, sometimes only a dollar in an entire year. Letters were sent from Cleveland and Cairo; from Buenos Aires and Brussels; even from the straw-hat factories of Manhattan. Most of all, from home away from home. Based on the written and oral records of their individual experiences – on family correspondence and narratives covering a span of three or four generations – this book represents a record of the interpretations of national identity and gender roles from a female perspective through times when the definitions of these concepts were challenged by the two world wars, by the post-war era, and by the unique moment after Slovenia’s independence in 1991.
Women migrants and their personal experiences have been in the focus of academic research only for the past two decades when academia’s prevailing general belief has become that migration is a process characterized by distinct gender-related specifics. In regard to various social, economic and historical circumstances, the life stories of migrant women present how lives depend on cultural landscapes, personal attitudes, intimate calculations and independent decisions. We see how the decisions in the life-long migration processes were influenced by not only economic and political factors, moreover by family bonds and friendship networks as well as by intimate reasons and aspirations. Personal accounts of migrants along with the subjective experiences of those who left and those who stayed help us to re-construct migration phenomena as well as reveal the complex processes of personal identity construction. The interdisciplinary use of such auto/biographical sources enriches migration studies with new insights into the roles, experiences, statuses and dealings of both men and women in migration contexts. With its engaging contributions from six authors/researchers this book marks an important step towards a better understanding of the migration dynamics of the past and of the present, of Slovenia and Europe and of the world.