International Conference: Women, Migration, and Aging in the Americas, 19th – 21st Centuries. A multidisciplinary and comparative analysis of dependence or autonomy through old age

ARRIZABALAGA Marie-Pierre's picture
Call for Papers
September 26, 2019 to September 27, 2019
Subject Fields: 
Demographic History / Studies, Women's & Gender History / Studies, American History / Studies, Immigration & Migration History / Studies

This conference will be dedicated to the study of immigrant women’s destinies in the Americas and their experiences of dependence or autonomy through aging, retirement, and/or widowhood in the 19th - 21st centuries.

Women have immigrated into the Americas in greater and greater numbers after 1850. However, their mass migration began around the turn of the twentieth century, much later than men’s, so that the sex ratio only became balanced later in the twentieth century (Donato et al., 2011; Gabaccia, 2015, Alexander et al., 2012).

In the course of their migration, these women often experienced discrimination and inequality in the labor market as manual workers and at home as housewives (Gabaccia et al., 2006 ; Ueda, 2006). Then and even today, these women had subordinate positions in the workplace under men’s authority and in their home they were, and still are, dependent housewives. And yet, historiography has recently revealed immigrant women’s agency and their capability to acquire greater autonomy and empowerment in the course of their migration experiences, both in the public and the private spheres. These conditions should have contributed to securing a decent livelihood through old age, retirement, and/or widowhood for them. However, few recent studies address these issues. As a result, we still know little about immigrant women’s destinies and living conditions through aging in the Americas. The purpose of this conference is to reconsider the issues in the light of recent research (further than earlier one on the US (Ruggles, 2003) and on Europe (Moring, 2017)).

This international multidisciplinary conference thus aims to give the opportunity to historians, sociologists, demographers, anthropologists, economists, and arts and literary researchers from all continents to cross-analyze their sources and their methods in order to reconstruct immigrant women’s destinies as they age in the Americas. The conference will highlight the diversity of these women’s experiences and compare their evolving agency and empowerment across time (from the 19th century until today), across places (migration to or within the Americas), and across spaces (private and/or private spheres, urban and/or rural environment, ethno-racial, religious, cultural contexts).

Thus this conference intends to identify how immigrant women from Europe, Africa, Asia and elsewhere in America lived or live their old age, retirement and/or widowhood in their new American home (North, Central and South America), from the early 19th century until today. Various questions need to be addressed regarding these women’s level of dependence or autonomy, as well as the types of solidarity and co-residence strategies between generations (which researchers have often observed in the Americas; Ruggles, 2011). Other important issues will certainly emerge out of the discussions surch as, for example: how can these women support themselves as they age, especially when they never worked and saved for retirement? Can they (or not) take care of themselves and therefore experience greater (or lower) agency and empowerment as they age? Or otherwise, do these immigrant women live different experiences depending on their origins, ethnicity, religion, culture, and residence in the Americas?

The conference thus aims to reconstitute immigrant women’s destinies and experiences in the Americas with specific attention paid to aging. This concept is complex and potentially evolving (depending on periods and nations). The focal point will be on women of 65 years old and above. It is the age when women’s dependence may become crucial as they often live alone (due to their widowhood and their children’s departure from home).

Participants will need to consider several aspects in their analysis such as, for example:

  • Status (civic, civil, and political)
  • Labor and retirement
  • Widowhood
  • Property and inheritance
  • Household structure and co-residence
  • Social mobility (upward or downward)
  • Rural and/or urban environment
  • Migration into and within the Americas
  • Ethno-racial, religious, cultural contexts


Proposals (a title, an abstract of 400 words maximum, and a short biography) in English should be sent by January 1st, 2019

To Marie-Pierre Arrizabalaga (

Authors will be informed of the acceptance of their proposal by the end of January 2019.

The final program will be sent in the Spring 2019

The final articles should be sent to the organizer and the discussants by August 31st, 2019.

Participants will later be asked to review their paper for the purpose of a publication in 2020.




Contact Info: 

Marie-Pierre Arrizabalaga

Professor in American Studies

Institute of International Studies and Modern Languages

University of Cergy-Pontoise, France