Mt. Carmel St. Cristina Society

Italian Mamas

On the turn of the twentieth century, the Italians formed Little Italies in order to ensure the survival and the successes of their family. The mama ruled and managed the family, and the papas were the bread winners! Mama had the central role. They not only ruled their family, they had power within the communities and the Italian Catholic Church was more female dominated than the protestant church. Most Italian prayers are directed to mama, Jesus’ mother. Italian mamas earned their power with self-sacrifice and total commitment to their family especially their sons! The idea that a dutiful son could not refuse his mother was extended even to Jesus. In return, Italian men were open and demonstrative in the love of their mother and loyal for life. Mother took pride in making delicious meals with tiny food allowances. They made bread, pasta, and even root beer (not to mention the pastry!).

But the American culture disagreed with the Italian female role model. They preferred a more independent female model. So the language of “mama” and “mother” had a different meaning in English and Italian!