Italian Americans are always known for their rigorous struggle and splendid contributions to upholding justice in society and for the protection of the rights of people. They bore authoritarianism and rights violations in their home, so they never wanted to see the same happen to them and their fellow beings in their new home – the United States. Let’s introduce you to some Italian American activists whose names are written in golden words in American history.
Frances Xavier Cabrini, aka Mother Cabrini, was an Italian American Roman Catholic nun who devoted her life to religious services and the welfare of people suffering from poverty. She was the founder of the Catholic Religious Institute (Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) to support other Italian immigrants. At a time when there was no hope for people, she helped establish more than dozens of schools, hospitals, and orphanages. In 1946, she became the first US citizen to be canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.
She was born in 1850 in the Lombard Province of Lodi, Italy. She came to the US in 1889 at the request of the Pope to help the Italian immigrants who were moving to the US, mostly in great poverty.
Carlo Tresca is a famous Italian American activist who fought all his life against fascism and the mafia infiltration of the trade unions for their purposes of labor corruption and organized crimes. He was also a newspaper editor who used his newspapers to expose the mafia and wrongdoers involved in union racketeering. He also remained a leader of the Industrial Workers of the World in the 1910s. History remembers him as a staunch public opponent of Stalinism and fascism.
Tresca was born in 1879 in Abruzzo, Italy. Since he was a vocal critic of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist government in Italy, he emigrated to the US in 1904 to escape a jail term for his radical political activities.
Eleanor Smeal is an Italian-American activist and political analyst who spearheaded the modern-day American feminist movement. She had been working for the rights of women and founded Feminist Majority Foundation for that purpose. She was elected the president of the National Organization for Women three times and chaired different seminars and events to promote human rights, gender equality, and feminism. Smeal was born in 1939 in Ohio. Her father emigrated to the US from Calabria, Italy.
Marcantonio was an Italian American activist who worked for the rights of immigrants, laborers, and the poor and supported labor unions. He was also a lawyer and politician who had represented the US House of Representatives from East Harlem. He was also a passionate supporter of African-American civil rights. Marcantonio was born in 1902 in the impoverished Italian Harlem ghetto of East Harlem, New York City. His father was American-born while his mother was Italian-born, both with origins in the Basilicata region of southern Italy.
Groppi was a former Roman Catholic priest and a famous civil rights activist who, throughout his life, raised his voice for the rights of African-Americans and was arrested many times while leading the protests. In 1976 he was ostracized from the church for marrying. Groppi was born to Italian Immigrant parents. His immigrant father, Giocondo, was running “Groppi’s grocery store” in Bay View with other workers from Italy.
Mario Puzo was an Italian American activist who wrote crime novels and books to expose the crimes committed by the Sicilian Mafia. He was also a screenwriter and a journalist who was against the mafia and prolifically wrote about their organized crimes in society. He was born in New York City to Italian immigrants from Pietradefusi, Province of Avellino, Campania, Italy.
Russo was an Italian-American LGBT activist who worked for the rights of gays, bisexuals, and transgenders and struggled to end violence against them. He also authored several books on the rights of the gay and transgender community. He was also involved in Gay Activists Alliance and ran many fundraising campaigns, and produced and hosted television programs focusing on the gay community and their rights. Russo was the founder of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance against defamation. He was born in 1946 in a traditional Catholic Italian family.
Arturo Giovannitti was an Italian American activist, socialist, and labor union leader who became highly famous when he held strikes in favor of labor rights. He was also a writer and poet who wrote books against the menace of poverty. He, through his poetry, also encouraged a revolt against cruelty, violence, and wars. He was one of the key leaders of the 1912’s Lawrence Textile Strike that called for a 54-hour week, 15% increase in wages, double pay for overtime work, and no bias towards striking workers. He was born in 1884 in Ripabottoni, the Province of Campobasso, Italy, and immigrated to Canada in 1900. He moved to the US after working in a coal mine and railroad crew in Canada for a few years.
Angela Bambace was an Italian-American labor union organizer who fought for the rights of women laborers. She was the first Italian immigrant to hold the leadership of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union for over 50 years. She also worked all her life supporting progressive policies and participated in strikes, walkouts, and other means of protests to protect the rights of women working in the garment industry.
He was born in Santos, Brazil, to an immigrant father from Leonforte, Sicily, and a mother from Cannitello, Calabria, Italy. The family migrated to New York City in 1901.
Italian emigration was fueled by violence, poverty, hardship, exploitation, and dictatorship. Millions of Italians reached the American shores in search of a better future, but they faced racial, social, and religious discrimination upon their arrival in the US. Yet, these Italian Americans reached the American Dream with unwavering hope and hard work and helped build our great country.
Since they have escaped violence and rights violations, they couldn’t have the same thing happening in the US, so they defended the liberty, integrity, and rights of their fellow Americans. October is the month to acknowledge and celebrate their contributions and sacrifices, so we all should come together to honor the Italian Americans who helped create a more equitable American society.