Alma Mathews (1867-1933) was a missionary and early immigration activist. Before Ellis Island was set up to process immigrants in 1892, people coming to this country from Europe left the boat at a dock in lower Manhattan and had to find their own way to Castle Garden, the immigrant-processing center. Kidnappings and scams to rob the newly arrived were common, and young women were particularly vulnerable. Mathews and other missionaries from the Women’s Home Missionary Society began meeting the more than 900 ships a year that docked in New York harbor so they could escort young women safely to Castle Green. Once the new immigrants were processed, the missionaries invited them to the “Immigrant Girls Home,” a safe house on State Street in Manhattan. The immigrant home moved to West 11th Street in 1921 and was named after Matthews when she retired in 1926. The Alma Mathews House is still open as a guest house for non-profit groups or UMW Want to know more?
The Alma Mathews House today
The Castle Clinton National Monument, once the Castle Garden immigration center