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Women, Gender, and Transnational Lives

Women, Gender, and Transnational Lives: Italian Workers of the World

  • Book Info
    Women, Gender, and Transnational Lives
    Book Description:

    In this transnational analysis of women and gender in Italy?s world-wide migration, Franca Iacovetta and Donna Gabaccia challenge the stereotype of the Italian immigrant woman as silent and submissive; a woman who stays 'in the shadows.'

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8359-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-42)
    Donna R. Gabaccia and Franca Iacovetta

    In turn-of-the-century Buenos Aires, the Italian-born immigrant Ana María Mozzoni reminded female readers that ‘the priest who damns you,’ ‘the legislator who oppresses you,’ ‘the husband who reduces you to an object,’ and ‘the capitalist who enriches himself with your ill-paid work,’ were all men. At almost the same time, in far-off Illinois, immigrant women from Italy and Belgium formed the Luisa Michel women’s circle. Arguing that motherhood could be revolutionary, the women began to translate a children’s story that would help them to teach their children ‘the love of their own freedom together with the respect for the freedom...

  5. Part I When Men Go Away:: Women Who Wait and Work

    • 1 When the Men Left Sutera: Sicilian Women and Mass Migration, 1880–1920
      (pp. 45-75)
      Linda Reeder

      By 1910 hundreds of thousands of Sicilian men had left their homes for the Americas.¹ As politicians and critics watched the men flock to Italian ports, they expressed concern about the long-term effects of the exodus on the island and the nation. How could Italian industry grow if the industrious left? How could the military protect the nation if the bravest men were overseas? In these debates, the women who remained behind – Sicily’s so-called white widows – became the symbols of the heavy price exacted by male migration. Social critics described how young men arranged marriages only to raise...

    • 2 Gender Relations and Migration Strategies in the Rural Italian South: Land, Inheritance, and the Marriage Market
      (pp. 76-105)
      Andreina De Clementi

      In 1908, a young immigrant man named Saverio wrote to his wife in southern Italy from Westfield, Connecticut, U.S.A. His brief message home, though formulaic, suggests how gender expectations shaped the mass migrations from Italy while also challenging men and women to relate to each other in new ways. ‘I ask your forgiveness for not having written,’ Saverio wrote before explaining his silence: ‘I have not worked for more than two months because of the presidential elections … and many projects have been stopped.’¹ Saverio presented himself to his wife, after a long and apparently anxious silence, as the victim...

    • 3 Bourgeois Men, Peasant Women: Rethinking Domestic Work and Morality in Italy
      (pp. 106-130)
      Maddalena Tirabassi

      In 1908, the Italian government’s General Commissariat for Emigration asked Amy Allemand Bernardy, the cosmopolitan daughter of the American consul in Florence and an Italian mother, to investigate the life of Italian women and children in the United States.¹ An astute observer despite the vast class chasm that separated her life from that of poorer migrants, Bernardy wrote two detailed reports for the Commissariat, focusing on the work choices and morality of Italian women in America.

      Bernardy’s inquiries raised two issues that would become central to scholarly study of Italian immigrant women in the United States (and to the smaller...

  6. Part II Female Immigrants at Work

    • 4 Women Were Labour Migrants Too: Tracing Late-Nineteenth-Century Female Migration from Northern Italy to France
      (pp. 133-159)
      Paola Corti

      In the late 1970s, seventy-year-old Margherita, a daughter of peasants in the northwestern Italian province of Cuneo, reported to historian Nuto Revelli: ‘My mother went to France to be anunù, a wet nurse. Because she had a son she left him at home with the grandmothers. From here many women went to France to bela nunù.’¹ In the study of Italian migrations around the world during the era of mass migrations, the stories of women like Margherita’s mother have not yet been recognized or told, let alone analysed.

      Why? Invidious gender bias is not the best explanation. As...

    • 5 Gender, Domestic Values, and Italian Working Women in Milwaukee: Immigrant Midwives and Businesswomen
      (pp. 160-186)
      Diane Vecchio

      Familiar images of the Italian immigrant working woman in the early-twentieth-century United States include that of home-based worker, factory operative, or cannery worker. Yet, in 1911, the Immigration Commission reported that in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the largest proportion of households engaged in business for profit were found among the Italians as well as Russian Jews. Among the Italians, immigrant women, whose presence as business ‘proprietors’ or ‘retail merchants’ in Milwaukee was recorded in city directories and the state census as early as 1900, were actively engaged in every field of Italian business enterprise during the lengthy period of first-generation settlement, from...

  7. Part III Fighting Back:: Militants, Radicals, Exiles

    • 6 Italians in Buenos Aires’s Anarchist Movement: Gender Ideology and Women’s Participation, 1890–1910
      (pp. 189-216)
      José Moya

      Donna Gabaccia and Franca Iacovetta recently asserted that ‘perhaps the least understood aspect of Italian women’s diasporic lives is their role as resisters, protesters, and activists.’¹ Various factors make Buenos Aires an optimal setting to attempt a response to the call implied in that statement. The Argentine capital had the largest, and earliest, concentration of Italians in the diaspora during the nineteenth century. Already by 1855, the city’s 10,279 Italians made up 11 per cent of the total population and outnumbered their compatriots in New York City by more than ten to one. By the end of the century Italians...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • 7 Anarchist Motherhood: Toward the Making of a Revolutionary Proletariat in Illinois Coal Towns
      (pp. 217-246)
      Caroline Waldron Merithew

      In the winter of 1900, several months before Leon Czolgosz assassinated U.S. President William McKinley for the cause of anarchy and for the love of Emma Goldman, a group of French-speaking and Italian women residing in northern Illinois’s coal-mining communities formed a club, I1 Gruppo Femminile Luisa Michel, and began to put egalitarian theory into practice. One of the women’s first acts of rebellion was a challenge to the all-male Prosperity Club – an anarchist saloon and a key venue of radical culture and activism in the region. With the help of some sympathetic members, Luisa Michel planned an assault...

    • 8 Italian Women’s Proletarian Feminism in the New York City Garment Trades, 1890s–1940s
      (pp. 247-298)
      Jennifer Guglielmo

      On 19 January 1913 over 4000 striking Italian women garment workers gathered at Cooper Union in New York City to learn that the International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) had signed an agreement with manufacturers without their approval. With jeers and the stomping of feet, the women rejected the union leaders’ instructions to return to work. Several women rushed to the stage, forcing speakers off the platform with cries of ‘a frame up,’ and urged workers to abandon the ILGWU in favour of the more militant Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). A ‘storm of protest,’ as theNew York...

    • 9 Virgilia D’Andrea: The Politics of Protest and the Poetry of Exile
      (pp. 299-326)
      Robert Ventresca and Franca Iacovetta

      On 16 November 1929, Italian immigrant anarchists in Chicago crowded into Meldazis Hall under the banner of Italian anti-Fascism to avoid police harassment. Paid informants of the Italian Consulate moved anonymously through the crowd. At the podium was a revolutionary anarchist considered by Rome’s Fascist authorities to be one of the more dangerous anti-Fascist exiles. ‘We will exterminate all capitalists because they suck the blood of the working class,’ the speaker declared. ‘We must use violence. We must shed our own blood for our cause, and we must avenge our brothers who died for it.’¹

      The speaker was Virgilia D’Andrea,...

    • 10 Nestore’s Wife? Work, Family, and Militancy in Belgium
      (pp. 327-346)
      Anne Morelli

      Soon after the Second World War ended, a nineteen-year-old Calabrian girl named Enza became engaged, via a written correspondence, to Nestore Rotella, a fellow villager working as a miner in Belgium. Enza lived at home and regularly attended church. At age sixteen, she had joined Catholic Action, a group seeking to counter the political and cultural influence of communists among land-hungry peasants. Nestore, for his part, was completely open with Enza about his convictions as a communist. In theory, political differences as sharp as Nestore’s and Enza’s should have precluded marriage and a harmonious life together. But Enza’s desire to...

  8. Part IV As We See Ourselves, As Others See Us

    • 11 Glimpses of Lives in Canada’s Shadow: Insiders, Outsiders, and Female Activism in the Fascist Era
      (pp. 349-385)
      Angelo Principe

      As Donna Gabaccia and Franca Iacovetta observe in their introduction, and this volume demonstrates, family, work, and struggle were important sites in the formation of Italian immigrant women’s complex and transnational identities. Furthermore, identity formation does not occur in a vacuum, but is the product of complex negotiations, including between how ‘outsiders’ saw or wished to shape the Italian women they observed or addressed, and how the women, the ‘insiders,’ saw themselves. Whether responding to the bourgeois image-makers and reformers from either the sending or receiving societies, or to their political and class allies in their immigrant communities, Italian immigrant...

    • 12 Italian Women and Work in Post–Second World War Australia: Representation and Experience
      (pp. 386-410)
      Roslyn Pesman

      While from the time of the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, the Australian population was composed of people from every part of the world and while today’s ethnic communities filio-pietistically trace their founding fathers to the first days of white settlement, the history of white Australia until 1945 is primarily that of the transplantation of Anglo-Celtic peoples, law, religions, institutions, and customs.² Migration from Continental Europe was a central event in the history of the Americas from the mid-nineteenth century; it was not until a century later that it became of equivalent significance in the history of Australia....

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 411-414)
  10. Illustrations Credits
    (pp. 415-416)
  11. Index
    (pp. 417-433)