Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Look at Southern Italian Life in the 19th Century

In 1938, Phyliss H. Williams, a research assistant in Sociology at the Institute of Human Relations at Yale University, published South Italian Folkways in Europe and America: A Handbook for Social Workers, Visiting Nurses, School Teachers, and Physicians.

This handbook is a fascinating glimpse into the world of Southern Italians, in Italy as well as in America after immigration. I will be posting exerpts from this handbook from time to time on this blog as they teach us much about our ancestors. Here's the first exerpt.

"Many South Italians who came to America around 1890 and 1900 settled in cities, whereas North Italians took up truck gardening or more extensive farming. This choice depended on the economic resources of the two groups. The North Italian more frequently brought money with which to buy land on his arrival. This the southernor lacked, and by the time he had saved enough to go back to farming his American-born children insisted upon remaining city-dwellers. These second generation southerners constitute the bulk of Italian urban population.....Families of the same local origin in Italy (paesani) tend to live in the same parts of town and generally speaking North Italians lived in sections distinctly separated from those of the southerner. Great prosperity and success, however, often cause members of both group to penetrate the more generalized America quarters of the towns."

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