Mt. Carmel St. Cristina Society

Italian Women in America

Did you know...

About Italian women in America? In the first half of the twentieth century, all the Italian immigrants came to America to work because there were no jobs in Italy and all the Italian women came into a life of work! In Italy, there were no jobs for women. In fact, people that heard about it in the village didn't like the roles of the women working. From a very young age, they were expected to work in the house, on the farm, in sweatshops and factories. These women sweated through the summers in crowded, unventilated space and then froze in the winter.

Before the union, a movement in which many Italian women played a big role, females were prohibited basic rights such as speaking to co-workers or attending to personal hygiene. In the factories, they operated heavy machinery, handled dangerous toxic chemicals, and inhaled noxious fumes. Women in the garment trade worked at home where they could tend to their children. The factory gave them pre-cut pieces of clothing which they carried home to sew together, and they were paid by the piece. Young girls, like 14, sold newspapers on the city streets in New York, like their brothers. The other trade was making cigars. They rolled Toscani brand at home in Pittsburgh. Italian women made fine lace in New York tenement in 1911 and found a market for their skills.

Between the years 1914 and 1928, it was a slavery really at Sher-Brothers factory. They throw you out if you came in 5 minutes late, you couldn't go to the bathroom, and you couldn't open your mouth. The boss was a real slave driver. He used to pick people from the best and use them for slavery. But Italians had to earn and they were happy because in the United States they could go out and buy a piece of meat and as much as they struggled and work hard, at least they always had a good meal!!