After experiencing hardships like poverty, a series of natural disasters, civil war and oppression from Northern Italy the Southern Italians started coming to America in flocks between 1876 and 1976. The most concentrated migrations of Italians happened between 1880 and 1920. Italians came to America not to escape these hardships, but to work and send money home to Italy in order to get their families out of poverty. Seventy percent of Italian immigrants were men and less than ten percent of them worked in agriculture, a sign that their stay in America was a temporary one. While here they worked in factories, construction and opened businesses.
Coming to America, Italians were faced with racism, poverty, discrimination, corrupt Padrones and poor living and working conditions. They were Roman Catholics in a country, which was predominantly Protestant. Even the Irish Roman Catholics looked down on the Italians for not being strict or self-sacrificing enough in their religious lives. Once women and children started migrating to be with their husbands and fathers they faced their own set of hardships with high infant and child mortality rates, disease among children and women especially over men.
Large families would sometimes live in one room and everyone including the married women and children would contribute to support the expenses. Children either worked or went to school sometimes in Italian community schools or sometimes in English speaking public schools. In order to survive as a community they established their own newspapers and organizations that helped them adjust to their new way of life in America while still maintaining most of their “old country” traditions. The migrating families brought over many things that were new to other Americans such as new food, music and dances. In a small Southern-Italian town called Foren za, in 1884, a man by the name of Angelo Rugilo was born to a poor family.
... really has some advantages and disadvantages. Paid work can bring children some income. Children are supposed to get money from their parents ... demands. With some extra money, children and their parents might feel better. Children with paid work are likely to/ to be ... Nowadays, more and more children work for money. To some extent, paid work can help children to learn, to take responsibilities and have ...
He unlike seventy percent of other Italians in Italy at the time learned to read and write. He was betrothed to Antionette Caggiano, a girl born ten years later of an ally family in the same city. Italy was at the time in a deep recession. (Italy would not reach the same standard of living as America reached in 1914 until 1964. ) This recession was set deep in history as for centuries the country was divided into feuding states. Most immigrants to the United States came from what used to be known as the Independent and Sovereign State of Southern Italy.
This domain stretched from Calabria and Puglia to Sicily. In 1860 Southern Italy was overcome and ruled by the Kingdom of Sardinia. Civil war followed for the next ten years resulting in about one million deaths and the defeat of Southern Italy. The Italian Army of occupation murdered the Neapolitans and Sicilians. The National Treasury of the Two Sicilies was robbed and all machines and factories were moved North. A southern Italian family in poverty was unlikely to ever get ahead because of the feudal system that was in place then.
Land possession determined a family’s political power and social status. The South was subjected to high taxes and protective tariffs on Northern goods plus the south had a lack of coal, iron, cultivatable land, and forests. Not to mention that the south was highly overpopulated. Aside from all that in the early twentieth century, Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried a whole town, Mt. Etna erupted soon after and in 1908 there was an earthquake and a tidal wave that hit the Strait of Me sina and killed more than 100, 000 people.
By the time Angelo Rugilo was fifteen the land was arid and “people only ate enough to stave off death,” In order to save money and resources. During these times Italians in the South had practically no other choice but to migrate to new lands. Although the amount of Italians coming to America between 1882 and 1910 seemed endless, with immigrations levels peaking at 400, 000 in one year, the Italians only made up about 1. 5 percent of the American population. Other cultures and races had been trickling in for many decades now and took up most of the population in greater numbers. Like seventy-five percent of Italian men who would come to the United States of America, Angelo left his fianc’e and family behind thinking that he would find limitless opportunities and return home after a few short years.
... of my culture. When I was born into a half Italian family, I was given the last name of Antonacchio which allows ... my entire family. The art is probably the best part of the Italian culture. The architecture of the buildings in Italy is beautiful ... way to entertain the adults. Almost all day, my family has Italian music playing in our house. The music has a calming ...
He showed up in 1900 in Boston, Massachusetts with some Italian coins equal to about $2. 50, some food, two changes of clothes and an optimistic attitude. The average Southern-Italian came to America with about $8. 67 in their pocket. This was a big difference compared to the $17. 10 that the average Irish person brought or the $23.
53 that the average Northern-Italian brought. Most Italians worked in construction or in factories and the unskilled laborers worked on the railways and other tedious jobs that no one else would do such as shoe shinning, rag picking and sewer cleaning. Italians typically took low paying jobs and worked their way up the ladder. It was that willingness to do these jobs for less that other white Americans resented because they said that the Italians were stealing jobs from them. Angelo took a job at a shoe factory. Even though he was not illiterate, he was at a disadvantage because he had not learned English before arriving in America.
Angelo lived at first with some roommates he had met on the boat ride over to the “New Country” in a two room Apartment in Malden, Massachusetts. They saved money to send home by carrying on their tradition of frugalness and barely ate enough to stay alive. Factory owners complained that the Italians were too weak and thin. Italians like Angelo, although intelligent and hard working, would earn reputations of being lazy, dirty and ignorant. Nonetheless, Angelo and his roommates worked hard, stayed proud of their culture and never lost sight of their goals. In 1912 Angelo bought a home in Chelsea, Massachusetts.
He would become one of the thirty percent of Italian Immigrants who would not return home to the “Old Country,” known as Italy. In 1914 he sent for his fianc’e, Antionette. They were married on August the 16 th 1914. Their house was a two family but the other side would not be rented out for about three and a half more decades. They had nine children altogether; three boys and six girls, two of the girls were twins. All of their children with the exception of their youngest daughter, Edith would be born in that house.
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Although times were rough, it was not as bad for the Rugilo family as it was for others. It was not uncommon for an eleven-person family to live in a one or two room apartment with no windows. These families had high rates of diseases, women and child mortality rates due to every thing from anemia to tuberculosis to cholera. Unfortunately, the Rugilo’s could not avoid becoming a victim of the infant mortality rate. The twins died at the age of four months. Inadequate health care at the time led to a diagnosis of “poisoned breast-milk” as Antionette was startled by a dog the previous day.
Unlike other families, all the children in the Rugilo family went to school and at least completed up to grade 9. They went to English speaking schools and became bi-lingual. Even Antionette who was illiterate learned a little English from her children. In return she and her husband would teach their children music. The family would entertain themselves every weekend while Angelo played the banjo and Antionette sang and played the harmonica. As more of their aunts and cousins joined them in America the celebrations grew and their Roman Catholic holiday get-togethers were enormous.
Italians, unlike their Irish Roman Catholic counterparts though that depriving yourself was silly and impractical. Besides hadn’t they done enough of that already? They felt that their religious holidays were to be celebrated with parades and festivals. The Italians ultimately built their own Churches where they could worship however they wanted. In fact by 1880 the Italian-Americans were organizing a lot of thing to help themselves out in the New World.
For instance the newspaper “Il Progresso Italo-Americano” was founded in 1880. Italians established their own immigrant-aid and fraternal societies. In the early 1900’s The Sons of Italy made many local organizations go national. Most of these stressed the importance of keeping with the traditions of their homeland. Some Italians still relied on the local Padrone, who was usually another Italian who would act as the banker, loan office, travel agent, interpreter and legal counselor. But many did not want to get involved especially since the Padrones were usually corrupt and associated with the mafia.
... adult life. In conclusion, financial situation of families have an impact on children’s future with respect to level of budgets ... from their well-planned education programmes or trainees. Children raised in wealthy families have access to the best available education which give ... later life. On the other hand, children who are brought up in wealthy families have chance to improve themselves with good ...
Italian Women were only allowed to work outside the home if they were unmarried. Married women like Antionette took sewing and laundry home, worked in the garden and raised the children. Antionette would tend her garden early in the morning and then walk four miles to go shopping for the house and get the laundry for her employer. “We would see her coming over the hill and we would run to her and help her with her packages.” Says Angelo’s son Angelo, Jr. about his mother.
“We were always a happy family, always. Course I was the baby of the family. Non ny (Antionette) worked her garden. She was always in her garden or on the farm. She would work all day on the farm and then carry food home in packages under her arm and balanced on her head. She would walk four miles to bring us home food everyday and we would run to meet her and take the packages.
She was always yelling at Papa because he drank too much on weekends and I would put him to bed. He wouldn’t listen to anyone else but me. I was about 10 or 14 that I can remember. I’d say ‘Come on papa, come to bed.’ “Although Italians endured many hardships, they stuck together and endured through it all. They formed their own organizations, proved racists wrong, lived through tragedy and corruption.
Most of all the Italians kept their traditions and held their heads up high when it came to their culture despite the pressure to assimilate into the rest of “White America.” Bibliography 1. Ruggelo, Angelo. Interview 2. web Italians Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America.
Boston: Gale Research, inc. 19954. di Stasi, Lawrence. The Big Book of Italian Culture. New York: Penmen Inc. , 19915.
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