Most of the immigration from the Arab world between 1890s and late 1930s came from Greater Syria and, in particular, from Mount Lebanon. In Milwaukee, most of the first Arab immigrants came from a village called Ayn Bairdeh to participate in the Chicago Fair, where they enchanted Fair visitors with their demonstration of Arabian horsemanship and folk dances. After the fair ended some decided to stay and chose to settle in different Midwestern cities including Milwaukee.
As a five-year-old I would love to spread black and white pictures and portraits in sepia over my mother’s beds and ask about the origins of the people that filled them. Women with dark features, almond-shaped eyes, and heads held proudly under muslim scarves. I wanted to know these women’s stories. The idea of young brides set to marry arranged dapper men and then growing to know them as life happened was so romantic. And their stories seemed lush with mystery.
Our oral history project of the year of 2012-2013 titled “Cultural Dress and Identity Narrative among Arab and Muslim Women Immigrants in Greater Milwaukee Area” is funded in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Wisconsin Humanities Council supports public programs that engage the people of Wisconsin in the exploration of human cultures, ideas and values.
The Wisconsin Humanities Council supports and creates programs that use history, culture, and discussion to strengthen community life for everyone in Wisconsin.