Cultural Assimilation : Case Studies of the Experiences of Post-War G.I. Brides
Erwin, Vanessa Maria
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Problem: English women who met and married American servicemen during the postwar period of 1950s–1960s experienced understandable cultural and conceptual assimilation as G.I. brides. English immigration, however, provided its own set of arduous cultural challenges that have been generally disregarded due to cultural similarities and common language that would appear to promote a seamless absorption into U.S. culture. British post-war brides confronted unique immigrant experiences as “silent immigrants” (Strauss & Howe, 1991) arriving in America as impressionable young women. Transitions such as to cultural change, assimilation, emotional and psychological adjustment were issues faced by these women. There is a dearth of literature exploring how these women intellectually, culturally, and emotionally adapted to cultural change in America. Procedures: The initial phase of this qualitative multicase feminist study focused on survey responses from 23 women from 10 states belonging to the Transatlantic Brides and Parents Association (TBPA), a national organization for English people living in America. From this population five women were selected to share their individual experiences through semistructured interviews. Emergent data from codification of interview verbatim transcriptions and field notes produced a holistic portrait of their unique experiences and common factors that enhanced or inhibited cultural and conceptual assimilation. Findings: These women told unique stories of personal truths about early life in England, expectations of life in America, realization of those expectations, and the degree to which skills and educational experiences advanced the assimilation process. Friendship, TBPA membership, military life, church, and work were identified as factors contributing to successful assimilation. Although the five women presented different perspectives of the assimilation process, common themes of resilience and flexibility were central to their adjustment to a new way of life and acculturation. Conclusions: The women showed remarkable openness to new experiences in the assimilation process. They embraced citizenship, pursued further education, and were generally absorbed into the mainstream American population, although some reported ethnic pluralism continues to exist. Recommendations: Further research with existing 1,931 members of the TBPA organization should be conducted to corroborate findings of this study. A longitudinal study may show the extent to which cultural pluralism continues to exist in subsequent generations of British families.
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