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

Treaties and Treachery: The Legal Battles of the 1837 Minnesota Treaty with the Chippewa

Authored by Jessica Manner

A photocopy of the Treaty of 1837.
The Treaty with the Chippewa signed in 1837, ceding the bulk of Native territory in Minnesota in exchange for payments and the rights to hunt, fish, and gather on the land. This treaty has been the basis for multiple court cases and a continuing presence of prejudice against Natives in the upper Midwest.

In 1837 the Chippewa Nation of Indians signed a treaty with the State of Minnesota, ceding most of their land in exchange for a lump sum, annual payments in goods and money for twenty years, and the right to hunt, fish, and gather wild rice in the ceded territory.

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Tales of the Chesapeake

Authored by Kate Yelland

Image of a first edition copy of George Alfred Townsend’s Tales of the Chesapeake, a collection of short stories and poems about the Maryland shore. Published in 1880.

Tales of the Chesapeake by George Alfred Townsend is a 138-year-old collection of stories and poems about the Delaware and Maryland shores. At the age of thirty-five, Townsend, or GATH as he often used as a penname, wrote Talesafter re-visiting the Eastern Shore where he spent time as a child. The book contains tales of the rural waterfront communities along the Chesapeake Bay (Wiebe 2014). The red, cloth-bound volume is one of just a few works for which GATH is still remembered.  Continue reading

Watching My Mother: Memories That Never Wash Away

Authored by Abena Amoh

“I watched as my mother was forced to scrub the sidewalks with other Jews shortly after the Anshluss.”

On March 12, 1938, Adolf Hitler officially announced an Anschluss between Austria and Germany. [1] The German term Anschluss means union. [2] Hitler claimed that his desire was to unify all European countries that spoke German. Interestingly, the idea of this type of unification was initially proposed by Austrian socialists in 1919. [3]

April 10, 1938 marks the date of the Anschluss election. [4] On that day, almost one hundred percent of the votes recorded supported the decision to move forward with the unification of Germany and Austria. Not all Austrian citizens were permitted to vote on this matter. Austrian Jews were excluded from the election process.

Shortly after the Anschluss went into effect, things immediately began to take a turn for the worse. Austrian Jews were treated as though they were less than human. They were subjected to many forms of public humiliation. Many non-Jews at the time were unperturbed by the degradation of the Jewish community.

During an interview with the Holocaust Museum and Tolerance Center, a Holocaust survivor named Anita Weisbord recounted one such memory. She vividly described how her mother was chosen to participate in a demeaning act alongside several Austrian Jews. The Nazis forced to them to their knees and demanded that the scrub off all signs of political graffiti on the ground. Young Anita helplessly stood by and watched as her mother scrubbed the sidewalk. Several decades later, the images attached to that memory are still clear in her mind.

Anita Weisbord is a living example of what it truly means to be a survivor. She knows exactly how it feels to be hated by absolute strangers. Weisbord is an inspirational figure because she continues to live a Vincentian life that is led by love and not fear. It would be easy for her to spite those who humiliated her mother and carry hate in her heart forever. Instead, Weisbord shares her story to emphasize the importance of respect, tolerance, and acceptance. In order for us to harmoniously move forward as citizens of the world, we must incorporate those three core values into our daily lives. We must focus and extend our minds and hearts to nurture one’s own and another’s good. [5]

Footnotes

[1] “Hitler Announces an Anschluss with Austria – Mar 12, 1938.” HISTORY.com. Last modified March 12. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/hitler-announces-an-anschluss-with-austria.

 

[2] “Anschluss | German History.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed March 16, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/event/Anschluss.

 

[3] Low, Alfred D. The Anschluss Movement, 1918-1919, and the Paris Peace Conference. Philadelphia, PA: American Philosophical Society, 1974.

 

[4] Roman, Eric. Austria-Hungary & the Successor States: A Reference Guide from the Renaissance to the Present. New York, N.Y.: Facts On File, 2003.

 

[5] “Our Mission.” Our Mission | St. John’s University. Accessed March 16, 2018. http://www.stjohns.edu/about/our-mission.

 

References

“Anschluss | German History.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed March 16, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/event/Anschluss.

 

“Hitler Announces an Anschluss with Austria – Mar 12, 1938.” HISTORY.com. Last modified March 12. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/hitler-announces-an-anschluss-with-austria.

 

Low, Alfred D. The Anschluss Movement, 1918-1919, and the Paris Peace Conference. Philadelphia, PA: American Philosophical Society, 1974.

 

“Our Mission.” Our Mission | St. John’s University. Accessed March 16, 2018. http://www.stjohns.edu/about/our-mission.

 

Roman, Eric. Austria-Hungary & the Successor States: A Reference Guide from the Renaissance to the Present. New York, N.Y.: Facts On File, 2003.

 

The Rise in Illegal Immigration in the 1960s

Authored by Elizabeth Paul

This is a hidden compartment meant to smuggle in illegal aliens from Mexico, taken in 1968.

In 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act, also known as the Hart-Celler Act, was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson (Ball et al 2017). This act ended the quota system started in the 1920s that had been put in place that gave preference to those of European origin, and instead created a system that was meant to reunite immigrant families and attract skilled workers (History.com 2010). This original quota system, however, did not include Mexico (The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress 2015). Because of this, temporary workers from Mexico were often hired to work on farms as part of the Bracero Program (Ball et al 2017). However, even after the end of this program as well as the introduction of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, former workers that were part of the Bracero Program would still cross over the border to work these farm jobs.

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In Memory

Authored by Amy Del Debbio

A memorial plaque creates a sense of honor and family with a visual reminder of faculty and staff who passed away. This memorial piece, along with other pieces, are found in Wilby High School’s courtyard—which is an extension of the school’s library. During the warmer months, students are encouraged to read or work quietly in the courtyard.

While visiting the Egyptian pyramids during WWII, Franklin D. Roosevelt remarked that “Man’s desire to be remembered is colossal” (Prasch 2013, 198). While the pyramids may be an appropriate memorial for a pharaoh, a memorial plaque may be more suitable for the average person. Prior to the courtyard being transformed into a memorial garden, the memorial plaque, which was donated by the Class of 2005 and contained in Wilby’s library, was the centerpiece of the cabinet that housed all “In Memory” artifacts.

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A Herstory on Lesbians

Authored by Nicole Loder

Image of Joan Nestle, Polly Thistlethwaite, and cat. Lesbian HERstoy Archive Collection. 1994.

Pictured are activist and writer, Joan Nestle, current Chief Librarian at the CUNY Graduate Center (Thistlethwaite 2014) Polly Thistlethwaite, and cat at the Lesbian HERstory Archives (LHA) in 1994 taken by the photo collection manager, Saskia Scheffer. I discovered this picture, with the help of an archivist, in a crammed filing cabinet, not too far from where the picture was taken. The cabinet was organized with an eclectic cataloging system, determined by the many archivists over the years. I was searching for content involving cats for an upcoming exhibit when we discovered this artifact. As I held this image, I wondered when the last time someone took notice of this seemingly insignificant photograph.
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Dr. Challis H. Dawson: Career and Talent

Authored by Debra L. Calvin-Smith

 

Dr. Challis H. Dawson, Kimberly, 1949.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bright watercolors of this painting depict Kimberly, a small neighborhood and bridge of Suffolk, Virginia. The bridge still connects the end of the peninsula where the Nansemond River wraps around it. Kimberly was a lively part of town with a variety of businesses, houses, and farms (Blair-Greene 2017). Continue reading

Campus Community School’s Piece of History

Authored by Nancie Joseph

Historic Marker placed outside of Campus Community School stating the history of the building. Photo by Jennifer Boland

Introduction

“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” the famous words of Neil Armstrong the day he walked on the moon. “Forty-six years ago, when Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, he had a little piece of Delaware with him” (Bittle 2015). His space suit was made in the building that is now Campus Community School at 350 Pear Street in Dover, Delaware. This is the story of a building where space suits were once made, which is now filled with laughter and learning. Continue reading

Reverend Samson Occum: Forging a Bridge Across Cultures

Authored by Nicole Shaw

Your Watermarked Image

Mr. Buell’s sermon at the ordination of Mr. Occum. Acquired by Stony Brook University Special Collections from the Swann Auction Galleries in 2008.

Samson Occum was a well-respected minister in the late 18th century who worked tirelessly towards peace in his community. Believed to be the descendant of a Mohegan chief,1 he was credited as one of the first ordained Christian Indian ministers.2 Ordained in 1759, Occum spent the majority of his life working as a missionary among Indians. Regardless of receiving a stipend for his work, he spent a great deal of his life in poverty and endured much suffering at the hands of the English, while facing many betrayals and false promises. Despite these hardships, Occum continued his work to spread the Christian faith among his people. Known to preach in Montauk (Eastern Long Island), Occum blended Native American communities with Christianized Europeans and helped Native Americans assimilate to western culture. He also organized the creation of “Brothertown,” a settlement solely for Christian Indians.3 Although as a young man the only book he owned was the Bible, Occum became the first Native American to publish in English.4 To this day, Mr. Occum is honored with a wealth of recognition, particularly at Dartmouth College, which he helped raise funds to initiate. Continue reading