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Stories from the Settlement

By Elsabel Rincón, Manager of Settlement Programs

As the city celebrates Salem Women’s History Day, I am once again reminded and inspired by the visionary, entrepreneurial and philanthropic spirit of our founder Caroline Emmerton. A woman long ago referred by the Salem Evening News as “one of Salem’s Best Beloved Citizens” and whose legacy continues to impact and change lives today.

After 100 years, the Settlement Programs at The House of The Seven Gables continue to bravely support the integration and growth of our immigrant community, much like Caroline did at the beginning of the twentieth century.

We launched the 2018 Community Conversation on Immigration with two inspiring speakers whose stories weave the immigration experience from their past to the present day. We were grateful to have received Photographer Mark Chester and Diane Portnoy, founder of The Immigrant Learning Center of Malden.

Through March 4 we have on display an exhibit from photographer Mark Chester: Photographs of New Americans. The photographs have been compiled in the book The Bay State: A Multicultural Landscape, Photographs of New Americans that will be used for educational purposes. This collection celebrates the stories of more than 400 newly naturalized US citizens who immigrated from over 190 countries and territories around the globe. As Doga Sonmez Keith, naturalized citizen and new American from Turkey featured in the book so eloquently describes:

“What can you fit in two suitcases? We arrived in the middle of the night. We arrived at the crack of dawn. We arrived for love. We arrived for education, for a better life. We arrived for a different life. In this book, Mark Chester fits our pasts and our hopeful futures in his frame; which is much more than what you can fit in two suitcases.”

Diane Portnoy arrived to the U.S through Ellis Island as a refugee on a converted American battleship after World War II with her parents, Polish Jews who had survived the Holocaust. Much like Caroline Emmerton, Diane used her visionary and entrepreneurial spirit combined with the survivor spirit of her family to found the Immigrant Learning Center (ILC, Inc), nearly 80 years after Caroline Emmerton opened The House of the Seven Gables. The Immigrant Learning Center provides English classes to new immigrants, as well as research and education around the social and economic contributions of immigrants through their Public Education and Immigration Research institute.

Immigration stories continue to weave the fabric of American life with their resiliency and expressions of gratitude of a new beginning. We are very excited to continue to explore and share with you many more stories, past and present of new Americans. For upcoming events please visit

Date: February 28, 2018

Author: sperling

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