“The Great Suiciding People Among Us”: German Americans and Suicide in the Nineteenth Century
When the superintendent of the census called German immigrants “the great suiciding people among us” in 1899, he simply confirmed the common wisdom of his time. Official statistics, proliferating social scientific studies, German-American literature, newspaper coverage, the testimony of family and friends, and even suicide notes, all supported the idea that German immigrants were unusually suicidal. This presentation explores whether high suicide rates reflected the dislocation of migration or a set of cultural characteristics, considering the extent to which German Americans constituted an “emotional community.”
Alison Efford is Associate Professor of History at Marquette University, Milwaukee.