I Nostri Bambini: A Glimpse at the Work of the Italian Welfare League

Authored by Maxwell Schafer

A bright pink flier announcing a gala luncheon and fashion show to be held by the Italian Welfare League. Featured "Man of the Year" is Rudolph Giuliani, and "Woman of the Year" is Susan Lucci. Honoring Aprile Millo.
Image of a flier for a gala luncheon and fashion show hosted by the Italian Welfare League to raise funds for their work. Published in 1989.

In the summer of 1929, Mrs. Giustina Micono and her son arrived at Ellis Island from their home in Naples, Italy (“Death” 1929). Her husband had made a similar trip six years before, saving money to eventually send for them, but perished tragically while constructing a skyscraper just one day after the ship his family was aboard departed for America. Without money or a husband with a job, Mrs. Micono faced almost immediate deportation, but was saved by the Italian Welfare League, which fought on her behalf to be allowed entry, and won.

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Lasagna Dinner: From Tradition to Community

Authored by Victor Otero

Taken during the first Lasagna Dinner, a Holy Rosary annual fundraiser, this photograph shows the parish women who came up with the idea, left to right: Pat Bennet, Mary R. Catucci, Eleanor Eisman, Anita Segreti, Mary G., and Rosalie Pappano.

Italian immigrants into the United States represented ethnic/regional and job entitlements. The immigrants originated from different parts of Italy and worked in specific fields and job titles in the native nation. During the period from 1880 to 1915, millions of Italians migrated out of Italy into the US. While in America, the immigrants faced numerous challenges. The immigrants did not understand the English language and had little formal education; therefore, they were forced to take low wage manual labor jobs (Connell 2019). As a result, they were often taken advantage of by the intermediaries who served as go-betweens between them and the potential bosses. Most Italians saw the US as a place that could offer jobs that the unskilled and uneducated Italians peasants like they could do. 

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Immigration and the Catholic Church

Authored by Megan Maye

Caulfield, Brian. 1996. “A Missionary Again.” The Staten Island Advance, August 17, 1996.

Pictured above is Brian Caulfield’s article, “A Missionary Again,” which discusses Silvano Tomasi’s episcopal ordination.


Cultural differences and inadequate understandings between immigrants and the United States has been an issue in the country for many years. The number of immigrants who come to the United States has increased annually (Segal and Mayadas 2005, 564), most likely causing growing concern between both parties.


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An Immigrant in the Labor Revolution: Luigi Antonini and the ILGWU

Authored by AJ Lent


Pictured is the “Progressive Dress Club Award” received by Luigi Antonini in 1958. The inscription reads: “ Conspicuous service and outstanding achievements as an American of Italian Origin in the labor movement especially in the dress industry”. Photographed by AJ Lent, courtesy of the Center for Migration Studies

In the early 1900s, working conditions for the common worker, especially immigrants, were poor, and unions sprung up in order to organize workers and campaign for better conditions. The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union was founded in 1900 by eleven Jewish Old World tailors (The Editors 2009) and though it was initially male-only, over time it “organized thousands of unskilled and semi-skilled women, mostly Jewish and Italian young immigrants” (Cornell University Library, n.d.). Although in some places, such as Pennsylvania, Italian immigrants found it difficult to unionize due to the cultural beliefs of their home (Fenton 1959, 133), unions in New York City had better luck, and in 1909 and 1910 respectively ILGWU organized two of the better known industrial strikes in the twentieth century (Cornell University Library, n.d.).

With the large numbers of Italian immigrants arriving in the country at the time, this was an important breakthrough, one which Luigi Antonini became an important part of. Born in 1883 in southern Italy, Antonini immigrated to America in 1908, settling in New York City and tuning pianos and rolling cigars before he became a garment worker (LaGumina 2005, 19). Joining the ILGWU, Antonini became very active and was voted onto the executive board of Local 25 a year after joining; he then went on to become a vice president in 1925, then First Vice-President in 1934 (Cornell University Library n.d.), as well as serving as the general secretary for Local 89, an Italian-speaking local that at one point had around 37,000 members (Grossman 1996, 28).

Antonini served as the First Vice-President for thirty years, and in that time, not only was he an avid orator for Italian immigrant workers, he also actively spoke out against fascism and Benito Mussolini as World War II approached, going so far as to helping sponsor a rally of Italian American workers in January 1942. After the war, he advocated for aid for Italy and helped create the Franklin D. Roosevelt Vocational School in Mondello, Sicily (LaGumina 2005, 20).

Throughout his life, this plaque was not the only award Luigi Antonini received for his efforts in the labor movement. Through his efforts, the ILGWU grew and more Italian immigrants found a supportive union that advocated for their rights and organized strikes to improve conditions and pay. Luigi Antonini was an instrumental figure in improving the lives of thousands of Italian immigrant workers, making them and their families safer in a new, sometimes hostile country.

References:

Cornell University Library n.d. “ILGWU. Local 89. Luigi Antonini Correspondence, 1919-1968”. Accessed March 17, 2019. http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/EAD/htmldocs/KCL05780-023.html#link7

Fenton, Edwin. 1959. “Italians in the Labor Movement”, Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies 26, no. 2 (April): 133-148. https://www.jstor.org/stable/27769876?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Grossman, Ronald P. The Italians in America. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Co, 1966.

LaGumina, Salvatore J.. “Antonini, Luigi (1883-1968)”. In The Italian American Experience: An Encyclopedia, edited by Salvatore J. LaGumina, Frank J. Cavaioli, Salvatore Primeggia, and Joseph A. Varacalli , 19-20. New York: Tayler & Francis Group, 2005. https://books.google.com/books?id=Tm-AAAAAQBAJ&pg=PT6&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false

The Editors. “International Ladies Garment Workers Union”. Updated March 1, 2009. https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/international-ladies-garment-workers-union

A Postcard of Praise

Authored by Sean Sorahan

Garner J. Cline (1974, July 27th)” Postcard of Constituency
Correspondence Regarding President Nixon”, Cline Collection,
Box 35 of 51, Center for Migration Studies, New York, NY.

There have been several instances of impeachment charges against Presidents in office. On February 24, 1868, President Andrew Johnson was impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors by Congress (Trefousse 1997). However, he escaped removal of office by the Senate on May 26, 1868 (Trefousse 1997). Continue reading

L’Archivio del Commissariato Generale dell’Emigrazione (Part II)

Authored by Michael Tomaselli

Figure 1 “Archive of the General Commission of Immigration (Part 2) and the General Directorate of Foreign Italians” – Finding Aid, Center of Migration Studies of New York, CMS.034

The Commissariato Generale dell’Emigratione (General Commission of Immigration) was founded on the 10th of January 1901(“Storiadigitale Zanichelli Percorso Site,” n.d.). The goal, in conjunction with the Direzione Generale degli Italiani all’Estero (General Directorate of Foreign Italians was to regulate the transmission of ideas into the country that might destabilize the regime and to protect citizens abroad. With Italian Unification ending in 1870, the Italian regime had to use every possible way to control its citizens in this nebulous time. Italy saw the world changing. Connections were being made faster than neurons firing. However, Italy saw the misfires as well. Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels wrote The Communist Manifesto in 1884, ending with the line, “Workers of the World, Unite,” while witnessing the wildfire of social revolutions and reforms take shape across Europe(Marx, Engels, and Toews 1999, 96). Regimes fell, splintered, and reformed; and Italy was determined not to succumb. In order to do this, the government tried to barricade against the rising tide of the social agenda. Continue reading

The Second Anniversary Banquet Commemorating the Enactment of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952

Authored by Laura A. Andrews

Program for the “Second Anniversary Banquet” commemorating the McCarran-Walter Act which honored newly naturalized Issei -American citizens of Washington D.C.

On Sunday, June 27, 1954 the Japanese American Citizens League in Washington D.C., held a banquet honoring newly naturalized Issei citizens. The event was held at the Sheraton Park hotel and commemorated the second anniversary of the Immigration and Nationality act of 1952. Better known as the McCarran-Walter act, the night featured speeches by its authors, Pat McCarran and Frances Walter.On the surface, this program may look like an ordinary event. However, in the context of its time, this banquet honoring these new American citizens was quite significant. The journey to this point, for those honored at this event was not an easy one, as the Japanese overcame many hardships to become American citizens. Continue reading

Solidarity in Advocacy: The American Jewish Committee on 1980s Immigration Reform Legislation

Authored by Mizuho Hashimoto

A copy of the American Jewish Committee (AJC)’s Statement on current immigration policy, stapled together with the business card of Gary E. Rubin, then-director of AJC’s Center on Immigration and Acculturation.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) has a long history of advocating for social justice and human rights, spanning from 1906 to the present day (American Jewish Committee, n.d.). Set upon the backdrop of 1986’s immigration reform bill, this document in the Garner J. Cline Collection at the Center for Migration Studies is a statement by the AJC arguing against a cap on immigration that would affect family reunification, as well as advocating for the admission of refugees (American Jewish Committee 1984). This Simpson-Mazzoli Bill – which ultimately passed in 1986 – was brought into existence with the intention of reducing illegal immigration, for example by penalizing businesses that knowingly employed undocumented people (Plumer 2013). However, this bill was criticized by those such as Congressman Edward Roybal, who argued that it would be discriminatory against Latino communities (History, Art and Archives, n.d.). In the document we can see the AJC advocating for Roybal’s version of the bill, which eliminated employer sanctions and introduced more generous means for undocumented people to naturalize (Montejano 1999).

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