Women in the classroom: mass migration, literacy and the nationalization of Sicilian women at the turn of the century.
This article uses the history of Sutera to explore why mass male migration succeeded in drawing rural women into the classroom when state reforms failed, and how literacy changed their sense of self-identification as women and as Italians. Although state legislation had made elementary education compulsory since 1861, a combination of political and personal apathy kept attendance at a minimum. Not only were southern Italian schools underfunded and mismanaged, but in the absence of any viable social or political reform movements, residents had little hope that education could improve their lives. Transoceanic migration made schooling relevant to daily life. The practical considerations surrounding long-distance communication provided powerful incentives for migrants and their families to learn to read and write, and education itself was an integral part of the dream of social advancement underlying the familial decision to send someone overseas to work. In consequence, potential migrants flocked to the schoolhouse, as did the women and children who remained at home. For rural women, the consequences of learning to read and write went beyond transoceanic communication. The classroom experience created new opportunities for rural women to forge new independent relationships with state representatives. Elementary and adult school curriculum and textbook readings served to integrate rural women as mothers and wives into the nation. Outside of the classroom, literacy gave rural women direct access to a national culture and economy. The articles and serialized novels that appeared in the regional newspapers served to further redefine ideas of maternity and femininity. Advertisements for furniture, pharmaceuticals and clothes fused women's civic roles as mothers with their roles as consumers in the national economy.(1) Through literacy, mass male migration generated a new sense of national belonging among rural Sicilian women.
Schooling in Nineteenth-Century Sicily
Between 1861 and 1900 the Italian government passed a series of educational reforms making elementary school obligatory and providing for adult education classes. Yet forty years after unification, state laws had had only limited success in rural southern provinces. According to the census of 1901, 65 percent of Sicilian men and 77 percent of the women over the age of six were still illiterate.(2) A 1907 government study showed that most villages had only halfheartedly complied with the educational laws, when they bothered following them at all. Across the island rural schoolhouses were in deplorable condition, and local governments claimed they did not have the money to build new schools or hire sufficient numbers of teachers. Residents often chose not to send their children or attend adult education classes even when schools were opened.(3) As long as daily life held little hope of economic or social improvement, there was no real reason for residents to learn to read and write.
Political ambivalence toward popular education undermined nineteenth-century educational reforms. The founders of the Italian state were fully aware that territorial unification alone did not create a nation.(4) In its struggle to forge a sense of national identity among its disparate peoples, the new government turned to its institutions and bureaucrats. Schoolteachers were foremost among these state missionaries. While telegraphs, railroads, military, municipal police and tax inspectors forced even the most remote villages to begin to recognize, if not to respect, state authority, it was the schoolteacher that brought the language, the values and the ideals of the new nation into peoples' homes. In this world where the nation-state was increasingly defined by a common ethnicity and language, leaders of the new Italy knew that if they were to succeed in creating Italians, they had to replace local dialects with Italian, local legends with a national history and regionalism with patriotism.(5) Yet, these conservative politicians feared that mass education was a threat to the social order. Effective popular education reforms would expand the electoral base to include all sorts of people, easily swayed by socialist rhetoric, who could destroy the social order. National education had to create Italians, and at the same time preserve the privileges of the ruling classes.(6)
The first national educational reforms were founded on the assumption that while most rural Italians were too childish to freely participate in public life, rudimentary elementary and adult education was necessary to create a unified citizen body. The Casati law passed in 1859 required incorporated towns to provide free primary education to all boys and girls from the ages of six to eight. It was enough schooling to teach these future citizens to accept, but not to question, their civic obligations. Financing for the new school system further illustrates the lack of enthusiasm for comprehensive educational reform by the new state. Local governments were responsible for financing elementary schools and adult education classes, while the state funded the secondary schools and the universities that shaped the next generation of politicians, professionals and industrialists.(7) The tension between the recognized need for minimal education and the fear of too much education that informed the Casati law also plagued efforts to combat adult illiteracy. While the new Italian state publicly vowed to raise literacy among adults, it committed few resources to the cause. An 1860 decree stipulated that elementary school teachers were responsible for conducting evening adult classes, but it did not raise their salaries.(8) Teachers had no financial incentive to recruit students, and if classes were canceled for lack of attendance, it meant less work for already overworked and underpaid teachers. Early legislation for elementary and adult educational reform served to create a system that would reproduce the existing class-based social and political order.(9)
When the liberals came into power in 1876, there was renewed discussion about the importance of vocational and popular education. Although these liberal politicians argued for a more comprehensive elementary school system and adult education programs, few believed that education was a tool to create politically responsible citizens. The underlying assumption that the purpose of popular education was to produce a patriotic, passive and contented work force was embraced by administrators and local officials throughout Sicily. As one Sicilian inspector wrote in his annual report to the Ministry of Public Education,
the teachers' duty is to make the child understand the world in which he lives ... and teach him to love it with all of its privileges and defects, with its satisfactions and disillusions, and so to create an individual full of fire, of energy and activity, understanding of his duties and rights, productive for himself and for others, ready and willing to fulfill his role on earth.(10)
By creating a class of loyal laborers, these politicians believed they could control the influence of socialism in the countryside and reinforce the existing order.(11) The Coppino law, passed in 1877, raised the age of compulsory attendance to nine, mandated adult education classes be held in every town, and provided minimal funding to hire teachers and build school houses. Despite its good intentions the law had little impact in the poorer regions of southern Italy and Sicily. Twenty years later a survey found that less than 1 percent of the towns affected by the Coppino law had complied with it.(12)
The failure of educational reforms had greater consequences for women than men. Secular education was only one of the ways the Italian state was encroaching on the lives of rural men. Military conscription had proved to be a powerful force in shaping male citizens and controlling the mobilization of men into the nation-state, without necessarily weakening the control of the ruling bourgeoisie. At the age of twenty-one all Italian men had to serve in the military. Those men who could not manage to evade the draft were posted far from home.(13) In the army, Sicilian men, who had defined themselves by kin and community, gradually came to see themselves as part of a larger nation. The experience altered their sense of self as they learned to speak Italian, traveled to big cities and forged friendships with their fellow soldiers who came from towns far from Sicily. Within twenty years after the unification of Italy politicians commented on the power of conscription to bring rural residents into the modern world.(14) Military conscription, however, only created new public spaces for men. For rural women, excluded from the draft, the lack of public schooling meant that they remained on the margins of civic life well into the twentieth century. Relations with the state remained limited to the few state representatives who appeared in the village, and for most of the nineteenth century, Sicilian women had little contact with tax collectors, police or schoolteachers. Information from the outside world was filtered to women through the stories and experiences of their brothers, fathers, sons and husbands. The failure of popular education increased the gap between male and female literacy rates. In 1872, 14 percent more men than women over the age of twenty-one could read and write; thirty years later 16 percent more adult men were literate than adult women.(15)
The national government cannot solely be blamed for the pitiful initial results of nineteenth-century educational legislation. Class interests combined with the cultural and material conditions of everyday life also curtailed the growth of popular schooling.(16) Throughout the south, and in Sicily in particular, deep-rooted hostility toward popular education among the local elite made the realization of state educational reforms extraordinarily difficult. On the island, education had long been an accepted mark of wealth and social distinction. Only the wealthy could afford the time to learn to read and write and to spend their days reading newspapers. The gentry looked suspiciously on state efforts to educate the masses as an attack on the social order. As one mayor so eloquently wrote, "money for schooling is often harmful: obligatory education is useless and dangerous, serving only to create socialists and anarchists who are the ruin of Italy."(17) Local elites used their influence in politics to veto new taxes and to refuse to allocate funds for public schools or night classes as required by law. When the Italian Parliament passed the Orlando law in 1904, allocating additional funds to pay teachers extra for holding night classes and making literacy a requirement for military service and a variety of licenses and permits, the provincial school boards comprised of the local elite commonly failed to enforce it. Professor Ingrao wrote the district superintendent that Sutera was unable to comply with the Orlando law, because "there had been no aid from either the [provincial] Patronato Scolastico, which had not even met during the year, or from the municipality which has little interest in the schools."(18) State laws had little chance of success if the ruling elite responsible for their implementation refused to enact the laws.
Agricultural workers and artisans also recognized education as a means of social mobility. Despite resistance from landowners and politicians, residents sought education for themselves and their children whenever possible. School attendance rose rapidly when political conditions seemed to offer hope for real change. In the 1890s, in the midst of the facsi movements for land reform, residents in Sutera organized social cooperatives and hired teachers themselves. Mutual aid associations, organized by agricultural workers in the 1890s offered adult education classes along with low interest loans and burial insurance to all of their members. By-laws commonly stipulated that all members had to "be sure that their children and dependents be given a Christian education, both in church and in school."(19) By 1900, however, in the wake of the failure of the rural land reform movements, the agricultural depression and the lack of industrial development in the south, rural residents saw little possibility of improving their economic or social condition. In consequence, Sicilians saw little reward in making the sacrifices needed to attend adult education classes or send their children to school from November until May. Attendance in rural schools fluctuated with the agricultural calendar as Sicilians struggled to make enough money to provide for their families' needs. The everyday demands of craft and crops required the labor of all family members and left little time for dreams of social advancement. Boys and girls continued to enroll in school each fall, but less than half of these children attended throughout the year.(20) By spring, even the few who had regularly attended over the winter left to work in the fields. School teachers constantly lamented that as soon as "the tiring work of the harvest arrives ... the students of both sexes from this school are almost all absent caring for the animals, gleaning or lending their small services to their parents."(21)
The prevailing belief in the powers of education to improve a family's social position did prompt many residents to support education for both their sons and their daughters whenever possible. According to the Jacini inquiry, girls comprised 46 percent of students enrolled in elementary schools in Sicily.(22) In 1897 a group of concerned parents in Sutera petitioned the district superintendent to keep the only girls' classroom in town open when the city council closed it to save money.(23) A daughter s education was a clear sign of social status. Throughout the nineteenth century female education had been the privilege of the elite, and by the turn of the century there were greater practical incentives encouraging relatively well-off agricultural workers to send their daughters to school. Educational reforms had increased the number of teaching positions, and teaching was a means of providing a dowry and a livelihood. Whenever possible parents encouraged their daughters to study and to earn their teaching certificates, and these children of braccianti and mezzadri filled the normal schools throughout the island.(24) Despite the recognition of the importance of education for boys and girls in principle, however, most residents were not in an economic position to support the formal education of their children, or to take advantage of the prestige that accompanied book learning.
The combination of class antipathy and the demands of daily life that shaped nineteenth-century elementary education in rural Sicily also informed the development of adult education classes. Evening classes, scuole seriale, were offered for artisans and day workers who returned to the village each night, while Sunday schools, scuole festive, served the needs of the rural workers who spent each week in the fields. There was little support for adult education on the part of the local elite; rarely did the town council offer more than one or two classes during the year, and these met only sporadically. Even those men who wished to learn to read and write seldom had the time to attend weekend classes. Sunday was a day of rest and relaxation for sharecroppers, and wage workers often spent the day searching for work for the following week.(25) Classes for women were held with even less regularity. Until the end of the first decade of the twentieth century most adult women had little practical use for formal education. Until the early part of the twentieth century there was no real economic or social incentive to lure women into the classroom. The only evening class for women held in Sutera between 1895 and 1899 lasted a mere thirty-six days.(26)
Legislative reforms brought schools and teachers into rural towns, but they could not change the economic and social conditions that placed the benefits of education beyond the reach of most residents. After a half century, educational reforms had neither created a literate citizen body nor generated a sweeping interest in national education in villages like Sutera. By 1901 literacy rates had only risen an average of 0.6 percent each year across the island. The class interests and material conditions of daily life that limited the effectiveness of educational reforms had a greater impact on women than men. In Sutera only 20 percent of the men and 10 percent of the women knew how to read and write. It was not until personal and familial experience gave practical meaning to reading and writing that rural residents began to attend adult classes and sent their children to school on a more regular basis.(27)
Emigration and Education
As Sicilian men began to emigrate after 1900, interest in education among rural residents rose sharply. The consequences were seen in increased class enrollment and improved literacy rates. Mayors of rural towns deluged government agencies with complaints of overcrowded school houses and the overwhelming demand for more night and weekend classes.(28) Elementary school attendance increased by 30 percent across the island. Caltanissetta, Trapani and Girgenti all recorded sharp increases in enrollment and high rates of emigration. Siracusa, reporting the lowest levels of emigration, also showed the lowest increases in literacy.(29) Between 1880 and 1901, literacy rates rose by an average of 0.5 percent each year: between 1901 and 1921 they rose by an average of 1 percent each year. Most politicians and intellectuals concerned with the growing exodus of Italians to the Americas agreed with Giovanni Lorenzoni when he wrote that "all the oral and written testimony agree: emigration is the principal cause of the increase in attendance in the schools."(30) While contemporary critics recognized the effects of emigration on the education of migrating men and their children, most failed to see that impact was even more significant on the lives of rural women.
Mass male migration provided the first real incentive to encourage women to learn to read and write. In Sutera, transoceanic migration began slowly, and very few residents chose to seek work outside the province before 1900 [Table 1].(31) Suteresi began to join the growing numbers of Sicilians seeking passage to North America after the turn of this century. Between 1901 and 1902 the number of passport applications rose from 25 to 117.(32) The discovery of sulphur in Mount San Paolino the following year bolstered the local economy and significantly slowed outward migration. Only after a landslide in 1905 closed the mine and destroyed a neighborhood, leaving one woman dead and hundreds homeless, did residents begin to pack their bags again.(33) In 1906, more than two hundred residents (5 percent of the total population, and 10 percent of the male residents) requested permission to emigrate to the United States. Two years later the mayor [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED] of Sutera wrote that 900 people had emigrated, and by the end of the decade nearly 10 percent of the population had been to North America.(34)
The typical migrant from Sutera was a thirty-year-old, married, male agricultural worker, whose wife and children remained at home. The men who migrated, and the women who did not, believed migration to be a temporary separation, a sacrifice they willingly agreed to in order to improve the family's material conditions at home.(35) Migration was not one man's quest for adventure and wealth, but a decision that involved the entire family. Few Sutersi believed that American streets were paved in gold, but many men and women were willing to stake their savings on the belief that a man could earn more in the United States than he could in Sicily. If a man lived frugally and worked hard in the United States, he could return home a few years later with enough money to buy a house, a small plot of land or open a business back home. No longer forced to work as a sharecropper or day laborer, a returned migrant and his family could hope to join the local gentry. This dream of upward mobility encouraged both men and women to find a way to send someone overseas. Women, as the household financial managers, commonly helped to raise the money for the boat ticket; and they used their kin-networks to organize male migrant groups. Although these women did not migrate themselves, they invested a great deal, emotionally and financially, into the decision to emigrate and they did everything in their power at home to ensure its successful outcome.(36)
For both the men who migrated and the women who remained home, literacy and education were critical to the migration process and the realization of their dreams. Even before they set sail, migrants had heard that literacy would ease their way through customs and lead to higher paying jobs. Once overseas, letters became an important means of communication between family members on both sides of the Atlantic. Women who remained behind and who took on their husband's responsibilities - enrolling their children in school and paying taxes - were equally pressed to learn to read and write. Beyond these immediate and pragmatic incentives, education was critical if a family hoped to use migration as a means to acquire wealth and social standing. The money earned overseas could purchase the physical trappings of success, but along with houses and land the family had to attain the cultural and social symbols that defined wealth and status. Literacy and diplomas were as important as money in claiming membership in the local elite. With transoceanic migration offering the real possibility of material improvement in the lives of rural women, schoolroom lessons took on new importance, providing a vehicle for upward mobility.(37)
Female enrollment in weekend classes rose sharply between 1904 and 1910, as prewar migration from Sutera grew. Until 1906, few women attended the intermittent weekend classes offered by the local government. In 1904 only thirty women enrolled in school in Sutera, and no women's class was held in the frazione of Milocca. Two years later seventy-nine women attended the first day of class. Between 1906 and 1907, the peak years of emigration from Sutera, adult female enrollment increased by 10 percent, while in Milocca, attendance in the scuole festive tripled.(38) The impact of enrollment and attendance on female literacy rate is visible throughout the province of Caltanissetta where illiteracy rates among adult women fell from 84 percent to 74 percent between 1901 and 1911.(39) Since far fewer women were affected by literacy requirements accompanying military and licensing reforms, increased interest in learning to read and write among women seems to be explicitly linked to transoceanic migration.
Male migration provided women who remained behind immediate incentives to go to school. An illiterate wife of a migrant had to rely on outsiders - the priest, mayor or a literate relative - to read her husband's letters. The intervention of a third party had numerous negative consequences. It was costly. Translation services had to be paid for either in kind or cash, and once someone outside the family read the letter, its contents were known throughout the village.(40) Women were rarely willing to publicly admit that their husbands had failed overseas and were unable to send money home, and fewer still wanted even their closest relatives to know how much money their husbands sent home. The only hope to safeguard a family's secrets was to keep all letters private, which meant the wife, if her children were still too young, had to learn to read and write. Along with the need to communicate with their absent husbands, village women took on new familial responsibilities that required some degree of literacy. While their husbands were gone women enrolled their children in school, applied for permits and cashed remittances. Although male relatives or city bureaucrats probably helped these women with the paperwork, the ability to avoid the intervention of a third party again made it easier to protect the family's interests.
The new economic opportunities that accompanied transatlantic male migration also encouraged women to learn to read and write. As soon as possible, these women who remained behind bought or built two-story houses in the center of town. Even before their husbands returned home, women negotiated the purchase of these new houses, and their signatures appear on the paperwork.(41) Along with real estate investments, women used the money from the Americas to open small businesses. During the peak years of migration, the number of women engaged in commercial activities throughout the province rose steadily. Women often requested licenses to run dry goods stores or to sell wine or bread. Residents today recall how women whose husbands had emigrated often opened stores, selling chickpeas, wine and bread to make ends meet. Women married to migrants opened the first bar and cinema in the town.(42) Under the Orlando law all proprieters of commercial establishments, male or female, had to provide proof of literacy to get alcohol or tobacco permits. Even after their husbands returned, women often needed to learn reading, writing and arithmetic to help them in the stores. When Calogero F. returned from Pennsylvania he and his wife Maria opened a dry goods store. Maria worked in the shop, while her husband traveled to the neighboring towns to buy supplies. Years later her son remembered his mother as an "excellent businesswomen," who kept the shop profitable.(43) The growing commercial possibilities that appeared with American money made book learning essential for these women.
Beyond the practical reasons that accompanied overseas migration, female literacy was part of the realization of the migrant dream itself. Reading for pleasure had long been a privilege reserved for the few elite women who had both the education and the leisure time to spend an entire afternoon reading a novel. As late as 1930, literate women were still associated with the gentry.(44) Female literacy was more than a pragmatic solution to the communication difficulties that came with transatlantic migration; it was a means of claiming membership in the local elite.
The importance of education in the realization of the migrant dream encouraged families to keep their children in school. Contrary to Robert Foerster's lament that "[c]hildren are torn from the schools to emigrate ... or ... are sent into the fields, especially for the olive gathering and the harvest, because their fathers are abroad,"(45) most families did not pull their children out of school when the head of household emigrated. Instead, elementary school attendance in Sutera rose along with transoceanic migration. Enrollment in the male classroom doubled between 1900 and 1910.(46) Clearly, young boys, as future active citizens, were the targets of numerous military, educational, and economic reforms encouraging attendance. While it is impossible to attribute the steady increase in enrollment in male elementary schools during the course of the first decade of this century to transoceanic migration alone, it is important to note that sharp increases in registration and attendance did accompany the peak years of migration, and not one child in Sutera was forced to leave school because his or her father was overseas.(47)
In comparison, transoceanic migration had a much more direct effect on enrollment in female elementary classes. For village girls, class size rose most dramatically after 1905, when the mines were closed and the subsequent economic depression sent emigration rates soaring. Female enrollment in first grade classes in Sutera jumped from fifty-three students in 1904 to seventy-six two years later.(48) Between 1906 and 1909 female enrollments averaged seventy girls, and in 1909, the town had to reclassify one mixed first grade class to a girl's class to meet the growing demand.(49) Girls were not only going to school in greater numbers, but they were staying in school longer. In 1901, thirty girls registered for Ignazia Parravecchio's combined second and third grade class, by 1906 there were nearly eighty girls enrolled in the second and third grades.(50) With fewer legislative initiatives encouraging female education, the increased enrollment and attendance of girls in elementary schools suggest that transoceanic migration offered residents real hope of improving their families' economic and social position, and they were willing to make the necessary sacrifices to ensure their children stayed in school for as long as possible. Whether earned by their sons or daughters, diplomas were a visible sign of the family's successful transition from contadino to civile, and, therefore, of the family's realization of the migrant dream.
In Sutera, transoceanic migration was an important factor in the increased enrollments in public schools before World War I. While government reforms and changing economic and political boundaries worked to make education more accessible to rural residents, particularly men, overseas migration made it relevant to the realization of familial dreams of economic and social improvement. Growing enrollments in elementary and adult schools, particularly by women and children, during the peak years of migration illustrate the importance of education in the fulfillment of these dreams. The meeting of political and personal interest profoundly affected the lives of these rural women, who had been only marginally included in legislative efforts concerned with fashioning an Italian citizenry. By encouraging Sicilian women to learn to read and write, male migration enabled them to reshape their identity as citizens, as women and as participants in the expansion of transatlantic capitalism.
Consequences of Literacy
To understand how literacy and transoceanic migration played a part in the nationalization of rural women requires an awareness of the different ways individual and collective identities are created and transformed. In recent decades migration historians have recognized that transoceanic migration itself plays an important role in shaping the relationships between individuals and the nation. Scholars have argued that the process of migration creates a back-and-forth exchange of people, goods and ideas including those who migrate and those who remain at home. These networks provided the basis for the creation of new identities among migrants in the new worlds and their kin back home.(51) The men who emigrated forged new identities out of the migrant experience itself; the women who remained behind created them out of the cultural and social opportunities that grew out of male emigration at home.
When men from Sutera left their homes, they defined themselves as Suteresi. Their identities rooted in their own historical myths of origin and belonging, which differed from the national myths that came down from the north. Villagers took pride in the stories of how their ancestors, among the first Europeans to convert to Christianity, fought off the Muslim invaders in the tenth century and refused to become vassals of the local Norman baron. Fellow Suteresi believed they could be distinguished from someone from Campofranco, a town less than two miles away, by their accent and gestures. Being Italian, or even Sicilian, had little meaning in this world where blood and geography still defined a person's place in the world.(52) By the beginning of the twentieth century military service, railroads and schools had begun to erode this narrowly defined sense of self, but the nation had not yet displaced the strength of the village as the touchstone of identity. Transnational migration had a strong impact on redefining these customary definitions of self and other, for as soon as a man left for the Americas his sense of personal and communal identity began to change. To the customs agents waiting at Ellis Island, the passport he clutched labeled him a citizen of Italy. To non-Italians in the new world his look, language and gestures made it clear he was Italian. To other Italians his face and dialect defined him as a Sicilian, but to other Sicilians he remained a Suterese. Daily life in the Americas strengthened an individual's identification with Italy; in Birmingham, Alabama where so many men from Sutera settled, the local consular officials, the Banco di Napoli and Italian-American newspapers all became central institutions in the life of an emigrant.(53) The migration experience also reshaped class identity abroad and at home. In the United States, migrants incorporated the American myths of individualism and wealth as the measures of personal success into their own worldview. Back home these new attitudes translated into what many viewed as impertinence. Wealthy landowners commonly complained that returned migrants "had become arrogant, and no longer felt the traditional respect toward the signore."(54) The emigrant experience forged multiple identities among migrating men. The different identities migrants adapted overseas, or at home, as Italians, Sicilians, landowners, emigrants or Americani did not replace their identity as Suteresi, but rather testified to the increasingly complicated political and cultural boundaries that accompanied the process of transnational migration.(55)
Mass migration had an equally powerful transformative effect on the women who remained at home. Although they never migrated, the wives, mothers and daughters of migrants stood at the crossroads of the migrant networks that linked the lives of rural Sicilians to faraway lands. The back-and-forth exchange of new customs, ideas and material goods created new ties between women and the nation-state. The boundaries of their worlds were transformed as private and public space grew out from Sutera to encompass mining villages in rural Alabama, and the Italian state became a means of maintaining family connections across the ocean. Women who remained behind utilized the consulate networks to keep in touch with their husbands and sons overseas. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also enabled women to enlist the assistance of government agencies to protect their family interests, to demand pensions and benefits, or even to take legal action against shipping agents. In 1907 Onofrio D. sent a money order for 1,000 lire via the Credito Italiano to his wife Onofria V. but it never arrived. After several months of waiting, Onofria V. went to the Mayor and asked him to write to the police headquarters in Napoli to open an investigation. Onofria utilized all the bureaucratic resources at her disposal until the matter was successfully resolved.(56) Her case was far from atypical. Between 1900 and World War I, a number of women from Sutera whose husbands were working overseas appeared in city hall petitioning the Mayor to contact various agencies to locate missing husbands or missing money. By encouraging rural women to establish independent ties to government agencies, transoceanic migration strengthened their connection to the larger community of the nation.
The classroom facilitated greater physical and symbolic integration into the nation-state. The consequences of schooling went beyond the ability to claim membership in the village elite that provided the initial impetus to enroll. Classroom lessons, curriculum, and access to newspapers and a national literature relocated rural women within the civic body and national economy. Book learning linked these women to a reservoir of shared historical and cultural symbols, strengthening their sense of national identity. Schoolhouse lessons emphasizing civic obligations introduced rural women to the nation and to their duties as Italian women. The serialized stories and news items published in the daily newspapers offered women direct access to society, politics and culture beyond the village, while advertisements enabled them to purchase the trappings of modern life. These material goods gave women the ability to fashion a new economic role for themselves as consumers in the global economy. Through schooling and literacy they entered into communities defined by written narratives and civic and commercial symbols that transcended the boundaries of kinship and physical proximity that had long shaped rural society.(57)
From unification onward Italian pedagological principles reflected the belief that the mission of elementary education was to create a national culture and a sense of national belonging that would erode regional loyalties. The image of the Italian citizen created and transmitted through the classroom was first couched in discussions of language and civic education. The framers of the national school system emphasized the importance of Italian and civic responsibility. Linguistic unity was a prerequisite to the creation of a liberal state, while civics and national history taught patriotism,"promoting and strengthening national sentiment."(58) First grade teachers were urged to "always use the mother tongue when teaching, and through frequent conversations ensure your students do the same."(59) Most early textbooks included a section on "the rights and duties of man and citizens," which stated that the "principal duties of citizens are: respect for the laws and authority, payment of taxes, defense of the state, education and work."(60) By the 1880s curriculum guidelines published by the Ministry of Public Education had expanded the definition of an Italian citizen to include specific moral characteristics. Teachers were expected to instill in their students a strong sense of honor, obedience toward God and parents, respect for authority, hard work, thrift and honesty. At the turn of the century, these themes formed the foundation of the elementary school curriculum for boys and girls. In 1905 the Ministry of Public Education reiterated these original goals of education in their explanation of the new primary school curriculum. The first years of school should create "honest citizens, industrious, respectful of laws and ready to serve the state."(61) Similar injunctions shaped the programs in adult schools. Teachers were urged to emphasize reading and write skills, but never forget that their duty was to also educate the ignorant peasants. In the curriculum guidelines published in 1905, the Ministry of Public Education wrote that teachers must "clearly explain the duties and rights in a civil society to ignorant adults.... these people who have lived until now in a state of dependency, can in school and through school, acquire the necessary means to become conscious citizens and effectively participate in public life."(62)
Although the Ministry of Public Education did not officially distinguish between the civic duties and the moral virtues of boys and girls during the first two years of school, a gendered construction of citizenship emerged in textbooks that modeled the state on the family. As early as 1860 the conclusion of a popular text warned its young readers,
kingdoms do not rise and fall as fortune wills, but according to the good or bad works of their citizens. Just as families where the father is wise, prudent and just, where the mother is loving and looks after the home, where the children are docile, industrious, diligent, agreeable and affectionate with each other, prosper; so prosper cities, provinces and kingdoms where virtue flowers, and cities where vice prevails fall into ruins.(63)
The equation of state and family became the standard metaphor in textbook civic lessons published for boys, girls and adults throughout the nineteenth century. This conception of the state had two immediate consequences. First, it created a nation that extended far beyond physical borders and strengthened the idea of the state as an imagined community.(64) As Ildebrando Bencivenni wrote in his third grade textbook for boys and girls published in 1880, "[i]s the state, perhaps, the place where we were born? The mountains, the valleys, the endless plains? - No. The state is a vast family that lives together in a neighborhood."(65) Secondly, citizenship was gendered. The ideal male citizen was a father and the perfect female citizen was a mother. Young boys were taught that their obligations to the state was the same as their duties to their parents and their future wives and children. Young men must be obedient, work hard and be willing to sacrifice their life in defense of their immediate and their extended national families. Young girls learned that as daughters they must love and obey their parents and strive to emulate their own mothers. They should eagerly help with housework and care for their younger brothers and sisters. As Italian women, their duty to the state was to raise strong and courageous sons and daughters for the nation, instilling in their children moral responsibility and obedience.(66) Guido Fabiani concluded in his popular textbook for female students, "Remember, good, prudent, hardworking women make a happy home; and happy homes make a happy state."(67)
Textbooks written for girls' classes emphasized those specific female forms of patriotic love and work that would produce virtuous and wise mothers. The fundamental purpose of female education was to prepare young girls for domestic life, rather than develop their intellect. As Geltrude Malagoli wrote to her young female readers in 1913,
our country, my daughters, has greater need of good housewives and wise mothers, than smart women capable of seizing the daily bread from male civil servants, or languid young ladies who study life through novels or elegant charity ladies who abandon their children in the arms of nursemaids. These frivolous creatures are worth very little as daughters, wives and mothers!(68)
The duties of young girls were embedded in the moral tales that comprised the readings for elementary schools. Usually set in a small provincial town, the stories depicted the lives of fictional girls who found happiness and praise in obeying their parents and helping with housework. Ill-fortune inevitably plagued those classmates who were greedy, vane and dishonest. Mixed in with these moral messages were practical lessons on personal hygiene, what clothes to wear in winter and summer, how to do laundry, to shop and to care for household utensils. The implicit message in all these stories was that a young girl's future happiness rested in her domestic abilities, and the warning that if she failed to learn her lessons she could grow to be the ruin of the family and the state. Ermilinda Fornari cautioned in her reader for young girls, a woman "can be an angel or a demon; the smile and the joy of a family, or its greatest danger, the source of all its bad fortune."(69) Girls were reminded of the influence they would have as adults over their husbands and children. A well-ordered, modest and peaceful home will keep men out of the bars, cafes and nightclubs and far from the evil temptations of drink, gambling and immoral women.(70)
Practical courses, such as home economics and gymnastics, integrated into the female elementary school curriculum after 1900, reinforced the link between motherhood, domesticity and civic duties. Sewing, personal hygiene, laundry, cooking and housekeeping comprised a woman's duty to her family and nation. Traditional forms of female labor acquired a modern, scientific appearance and a patriotic significance in classroom texts. By World War 1, exhortations to let air and sun into the house, wash your clothes and your body regularly, and eat nutritious foods were specifically directed toward girls and women.(71) Similar assumptions framed discussions of physical education. In an 1896 article on the benefits of physical education Angelo Mosso wrote that
free movement, walking, jumping, running and games are more useful for women than for men. For the latter, gymnastic exercises that develop the arms and the back muscles can be useful. For a woman, these exercises are not as useful; maternity, a woman's reason for being, does not rest in her arms, but in the lower part of her torso where the largest muscles used to walk, to run and to play are located.(72)
Discussions surrounding the curriculum for female education reflected the belief that women's duties were to ensure the health and well being of future generations of dutiful, obedient producers and reproducers.
By the time the women of Sutera entered the classroom after 1905, a clearly defined construction of the ideal Italian woman was articulated through classroom texts and curriculum. How literally rural women accepted this model is impossible to judge. Certainly not all girls and women enthusiastically embraced the lessons extolling the joys of housework and motherhood.73 However, the messages transmitted through the stories and poems in popular readers resonated with the values and traditions in the rural world. On many levels these stories and poems reflected the religious and traditional values that had long shaped female roles within the community. The general moral lessons embedded in the readers were similar to those preached in church every Sunday; obey God and your parents, do not steal or lie. Messages regarding the value of work and modesty echoed local proverbs: "good land and a good wife bring a man happiness;" or "good habits, not beauty, brings love."(74) Curriculum guidelines for adult classes emphasized that school should reflect daily life and the needs of the community. Teachers were encouraged to use examples from rural life in classroom assignments. Arithmetic problems could focus on land use, rents or buying seed. After 1904, suggestions for possible conversation and composition topics for night and weekend classes even incorporated the experience of emigration. One writing assignment began, "Lena writes to her husband in America and describes the miserable harvest from their land, the consequence of poor cultivation and lack of attention. She begs him to return as soon as possible."(75) Classroom lessons for girls and women did not contradict traditional moral strictures or the life experiences of these women. These lessons joined local cultural codes that had shaped the roles of rural women to a national construction of femininity. As the women of Sutera learned to read and write, they were also taught that as wives and mothers they were important to the strength and survival of the nation. In this new space where the state and the village met, female education enabled rural women to carve out new relationships with Italy and the world.
The novels and stories serialized in the nation's daily papers reinforced these schoolhouse lessons through the romanticization of maternal love and sacrifice. Although devotional texts and the biographies of saints remained the most popular reading material, rural women also enjoyed secular stories of adventure and love. The publishers of major newspapers carefully chose novels that would appeal to women to boost circulation.(76) These serialized novels were vehicles for the creation of a national popular culture and gender ideals that, for the first time, embraced rural women.
The heroines of popular novels echoed the descriptions of the ideal woman found in the classroom and further eroded the boundaries between local, regional and national identification. Between May of 1909 and January of 1910 Il Giornale di Sicilia serialized Luigi Natoli's I Beati Paoli in 239 episodes. The novel - set at the beginning of the eighteenth century against the backdrop of the ascension of Philip V to the Spanish throne, the subsequent European wars of succession, the transfer of Sicily to the house of Savoy, and the struggles between the church, state and nobility on the island - tells the story of a secret vigilante group that protected the powerless in the face of a corrupt nobility. In this story of adventure, orphan stepbrothers, Biasco and Emmanuale, sons of a knight who died in the service of the house of Savoy, fight to regain their position from their evil uncle Raimondo. The female protagonists are clearly divided into good and evil. The mothers of the stepbrothers, Cristina, a peasant, and Alosia, a noblewoman, typified the good woman: they are humble, self-sacrificing mothers and wives, who recognize their duties to their families, their children and to their lords. Both die protecting their young sons. In contrast the noblewoman Gabriella, the wife of Don Raimondo, is a manipulative, conniving, selfish woman who betrays her husband and seduces young Biasco to satisfy her own pleasure.
Historical adventures, alternating with stories of love, romance and tragedy, integrated the women of Sutera into a national popular culture, strengthening their civic and personal identification with marriage and motherhood. Newspapers regularly published short romantic stories alongside popular romance novels directed at women readers. In the early spring of 1913, Il Giornale di Sicilia published Carola Prosperi's Una Lezione d'Umilita and Clarice Tartufari's Vaghe Stelle dell'Orsa.(77) The themes of these stories focused on jealousy, betrayal, the beauty of marriage and the power of maternal love. These newspaper heroines who inevitably found fulfillment in marriage and family, reinforced schoolhouse lessons that equated female civic participation with motherhood, and created a national reservoir of shared narratives and characters that rural women incorporated into their own worldview.
Local and international news items further strengthened the growing cultural intersections between village and nation visible in the regional newspapers. In 1909, the women of Sutera could read in detail how Giorgio Calvi shot the archpriest Domenico Oliva five times as he left church after celebrating mass in a small town in Calabria. "The cause was the usual one. Giorgio Calvi returned from America after three years overseas, to find his wife pregnant. It did not take long for him to discover that his substitute during his absence was the archpriest."(78) Suteresi could readily identify with these stories. At least one returned migrant lodged a formal complaint with the diocese in Caltanissetta, accusing the archpriest in Sutera of seducing his wife while he was working overseas. If regional differences were diminished by this printed evidence that indeed "tutto il mondo e paese" (all the world is a village), so were class differences. The murder of the Countess Tregona, originally from Palermo, who was brutally pummeled to death by a male companion clearly illustrated that money and titles were not enough to protect a woman's life or honor in the face of what many considered to be public licentiousness. Alongside the news of world events, trouble in the Balkans and Turkey and Italy's position in global affairs, were these stories that resonated with the traditional cultural mores of honor that defined village life. Rural women were able to merge these pedagogical and fictional narratives with their own beliefs about women's roles.
While schoolhouse lessons and serialized novels integrated rural women into a national political and cultural female collectivity, literacy also transformed their participation in the national economy. Remittances and literacy enabled rural women to carve out a new economic position for themselves as consumers in a rapidly expanding world capitalist system. At the end of the nineteenth century, cheap mass-produced goods from the northern textile mills had decimated traditional forms of female wage labor (weaving, spinning and embroidery) on the island. Female wage earners withdrew from paid work, becoming donne di case, or housewives. The scarcity of wage work limited the ability of women to enter the growing consumer economy.(79) Male migration created an alternate route for women to reenter the marketplace, providing rural women married to migrants with the money needed to become consumers. Between 1900 and 1915, Italians working overseas sent more than a million dollars home to their wives and mothers. In 1907 migrants from the district of Caltanissetta sent home nearly two million lire ($400,000).(80) Once women had bought or built their new two-story houses they turned their attention to purchasing new furnishings that could attest to the family's new position in the village hierarchy. Sicilian women had traditionally controlled household budgets. They were solely responsible for smaller purchases, clothing or odds and ends, and generally had a say in the larger decisions to purchase land or a mule. As money from the Americas allowed families to purchase bigger houses and invest in available agricultural or commercial opportunities, rural women were able to enter the rapidly growing consumer market.
Access to newspapers facilitated the transformation of these women into consumers. Regional newspapers were full of advertisements for the latest furnishings and fashions rural residents needed to decorate their new larger homes and clothe themselves in a manner reflecting their new status. Regional newspapers proudly advertised Singer sewing machines, tile stoves, iron bedsteads and dining room sets. Since few villagers had electricity, the most modern inventions remained inaccessible; however those pieces - pianos, carpets, bedsteads and sofas - that appeared in the village, laboriously carried by mule cart up the rocky, muddy road, became a family's prized possession and a mark of distinction.(81) Along with furnishings, ready made clothing advertised in daily papers changed local dress and contributed the transformation of rural women into consumers; fashion columns appeared in the local papers describing the latest styles from Paris, London and Rome. By 1910 the rural women of Sutera were able to order ready made clothes, corsets, Parisian veils and dresses directly from stores in Palermo or Agrigento. If a particular style was not available they could order a pattern from Butterick.(82) The possession of mass-produced consumer goods blurred regional distinctions. When Senator Lorenzoni toured Sicily in 1908, he lamented how rural consumerism had weakened local traditions and customs.
Sicily has left her isolation and come into contact with the Italian continent, and what is more important, over the last few years, the great land masses of North America and Argentina; she has quit with her old styles, so beautiful and characteristic, appropriate and lasting, but expensive, and has taken on the insipid anti-aesthetical modern fashions, extraneous to all traditions in the region, tastelessly international, but fashionable and a good value.(83)
Remittances and literacy enabled rural women to purchase the cheap mass-produced manufactured goods that had displaced their own work. These women whose husbands migrated were instrumental in the creation of a consumer household economy in rural Sicily.
Consumerism and the nationalization of rural Italian women came full circle in the abundant advertising for personal hygiene and pharmaceutical products in the regional papers. Advertisements for laundry soap resonated with textbook lessons on how to wash the family's clothes. Testimonials to the power of Bayer Aspirin and stomach medicines to cure family ailments helped women keep their families healthy and strong. The message was clear: modern commodities would help these rural women better fulfill their civic duties. Other advertisements exhorted women to buy combs and hair ribbons, lotions to wash away grey hair, creams to erase wrinkles and makeup to transform themselves into modern beauties.(84) While few rural women probably purchased or used these beauty products, the marketing and distribution of these products contributed to the construction of the image of the female consumer that was making its way into rural regions. By World War I, the women of Sutera had access to the growing global commercial culture. These advertisements for beauty creams, furnishings and clothing all created new public and commercial spaces for rural women within a national consumer market. Whether their new position as consumers ultimately proved either to be empowering for them as women, or to be the basis of a new political identity reflecting demands for new civic rights, is questionable. What the experiences of these women can suggest is that the economic impact of mass migration on the lives of rural women was linked to new forms of male and female citizenship.(85)
In Sicily, the convergence of private interests with public educational policy had significant consequences on the lives of rural women. Book learning, an integral part of the Sicilian migrant dream for both the men who traveled to the Americas and the women who remained home, contributed to the inclusion of rural women into the imagined political, cultural and economic communities of the nation. While the cultural and political consequences of transnational migration never completely replaced local affiliation to kin and community, learning to read and write strengthened rural women's connections to the nationstate and beyond. Motivated by familial dreams of joining the local gentry, these women who went to school and learned to read found themselves moving outside the provincial boundaries of Sutera. Newspapers, novels and the schoolhouse helped shape their self-identification as mothers, wives and Italians. The history of female education in Sicily challenges accepted notions of the consequences of mass male migration on rural women, and questions many assumptions about their relationship to the nation-state. Male emigration served as a means for these women, excluded from new forms of wage work and denied political rights, to claim a new position in the growing national and world economy as consumers and as citizens.
Department of History Columbia, MO 65211
I would like to thank Donna Gabaccia, Theodore Koditschek and David Tager for their comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this essay. I would also like to thank Rudolph Bell, Samuel Bailey, and Virginia Yans-McLaughlin. The University of Missouri Research Board and the Agnelli Foundation provided generous research support.
1. See Victoria de Grazia, "Empowering Women as Citizen Consumers," in The Sex of Things: Gender and Consumption in Historical Perspective, ed. Victoria de Grazia (Berkeley, 1996), pp. 275-86, for an excellent discussion on the impact of consumer culture and nationalization of women.
2. Ministero di Agricoltura, Industria e Commercio (MAIC), Direzione Generale della Statistica (DGS), Censimento della popolazione del regno al 10 febbraio 1901, II (Rome, 1903), pp. 276-319.
3. Archivio Comunale di Sutera (ACS), Memo, "Dott. V. Ingrao al Sig. R. Commissariato," 21 Marzo 1906, cat. IX, cl. 2; Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione, Istruzione primaria e popolare in Italia-con speciale riguardo all' anno scolastico 1907-1908 (Rome, 1910), p. 422.
4. According to Ernesto Ragionieri, only 2.5% of Italians spoke Italian in 1866. Ernesto Ragionieri, "La storia politica e sociale," in Storia dell'Italia: Dall 'unita ad oggi, Vol. 4 (Torino, 1976), p. 1714. My ideas of nationalism and the nation-state are strongly influenced by Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London, 1983); Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Ithaca, NY, 1983); and Montserrat Guibernau, Nationalisms: The Nation-State and Nationalism in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge, 1996).
5. Ragionieri, pp. 1685-96; Eric Hobsbawm, Age of Empire (New York, 1989), pp. 149-50; Eugen Weber, Peasants into Frenchmen (Stanford, 1976), chapters 17 and 18; Gaetano Bonetta, Istruzione e societa nella Sicilia dell'ottocento (Palermo, 1981), p. 56.
6. Tracy Koon, Believe, Fight and Obey (Chapel Hill, 1985), pp. 35-37.
7. Bonetta, Istruzione, p. 58. Article 344 of the Casati law stipulates that the towns are responsible for all educational expenses. According to Article 345, the state would provide an annual stipend in those cases where a town was too poor to fund an elementary school. However, no money was allocated in the national budget for elementary education.
8. Atti della giunta per l'inchiesta agraria e sulle condizioni della classe agricola, XIII, Relazione del commissario Abele Damiani (Rome, 1884), tomo 1, fasc. 1, p. 121 (hereafter, Atti della giunta).
9. Koon, Believe, p. 37.
10. Bonetta, Istruzione, p. 285.
11. Bonetta, Istruzione, pp. 55-59. Also see Edward R. Tannenbaum, "Education," in Modern Italy, eds. Edward R. Tannenbaum and Emiliana P. Noether (New York, 1974), p. 235; Inchiesta parlamentare sulle condizioni dei contadini nelle provincie meridionali e nella Sicilia, VI (Rome, 1910), tomo 1, parte 3, p. 541 (hereafter, Inchiesta.); Atti della giunta, XIII, tomo 1, fasc. 1, p. 121.
12. Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione, Bollettino ufficale del ministero dell'istruzione pubblica, Supplemento al No. 42, anno XXVII, II (Rome, 19 October 1900): XII.
13. By 1900, men who could afford to pay 2,000 life served one year instead of three. Giorgio Rochat, "L'esercito italiano negli ultimi cento anni," in Storia d'Italia: I documenti, V (Turin, ed. 1973), p. 1875.
14. Sidney Sonnino, Inchiesta in Sicilia (1876: Reprint Florence, 1974), p. 66.
15. Inchiesta, VI, tomo 1, parte 3, p. 520.
16. See John Briggs, An Italian Passage: Immigrants to Three American Cities (New Haven, 1978), pp. 37-64 for a thorough description of the social and economic conditions that influenced schooling in southern Italy at the turn of the century.
17. Inchiesta, VI, tomo 1, parte 3, p. 257.
18. ACS, "Memo da N. Ingrao al Sig. Sindaco: Oggetto scuole seriale e festive per adulti analfabeti 1905-1906, 18 settembre, 1905," cat. IX, cl. 2, fasc. 9.
19. ACS, "Memo: Dal Sindaco al Circolo Agricolo Operaio, 1886," cat. IX, cl. 2, fasc. 9; Lorenzoni, Inchiesta, VI, tomo 1, parte 2, p. 714.
20. ACS, "Obbligati alla scuola: 1901-02, gennaio 1902," cat. IX, cl. 1, fasc. 1.
21. ACS, "Dalla maestro della borgata al sindaco di Sutera: Oggetto prestabilamento degli esami finali, 11/6/1889," cat. IX, cl. 2a, fasc. 2a; Professor Ingrao from Sutera also wrote to the provincial authorities. ACS, "Maestro N. Ingrao: Oggetto provvedimenti per gli esami finali, luglio 1889," cat. IX, cl. 2a, fasc. 2a.
22. Atti della giunta, XIII, tomo 1, fasc. 1, p. 127
23. ACS, "Memo dalla Provveditore R. prefettura della provincia di Caltanissetta al Sindaco di Sutera, 22 novembre, 1897," cat. IX, cl. 2, fasc. 1.
24. Elvira Mancuso, Sulle condizione della donna borghese in Sicilia: appunti e riflessione (Caltanissetta, 1907), p. 5. Mancuso suggests that the background of these teachers is one of the reasons for the inadequate quality of middle-class female education: no matter how well run a normal school, in the education of its teachers, it cannot replace the civil and moral basis provided by a well-to-do family."
25. ACS, "Istruzione di scuole rurale e festivi per adulti analfebeti, 16 luglio 1905," cat. IX, cl. 2, fasc. 9; Atti della giunta, XIII, tomo 1. fasc. 1, p. 121.
26. ACS, "Scuola Seriale 1895," cat. IX, cl. 2, fasc. 9; As late as 1905, Rava commented that the weekend schools failed to meet the needs of rural residents. Agricultural workers did not want to spend their one full day at home in the classroom, and rural women were too busy on Sundays to attend. V. Rava, "Le scuole serali e festive nell'anno scolastico 1904-05," Bollettino Ufficiale del Ministero dell'Istruzione Pubblica 34 (23 August, 1906): 2400.
27. Weber, Peasants, p. 327. Throughout this chapter on education, Weber clearly illustrates how rural residents in France began to attend school when classroom lessons proved useful in meeting the needs and demands of a changing world.
28. Inchiesta, VI, tomo 1, parte 3, pp. 850-51.
29. Inchiesta, VI, tomo 1, parte 2,p. 531. The two exceptions to this pattern appear to be Palermo and Catania. Palermo had experienced a longer history of migration and enrollments had been increasing since the end of the nineteenth century. As a result although Palermo experienced intense emigration between 1900-1906, classroom enrollments did not rise as sharply as in Caltanissetta or Girgenti. On the other hand, Catania which had reported low rates of emigration saw enrollments rise by 24 percent, largely due to consequences of industrialization and urbanization.
30. Inchiesta, VI, tomo 1, parte 2, p. 531. Also see Francesco Colletti, Dell'Emigrazione Italiana (Milan, 1912), pp. 257-61; and Dott. Giovan Battista Raja, Il fenomeno emigratorio sicliano (Palermo, 1908), pp. 71-2.
31. For further discussion of conservative estimates of emigration see Samuel Baily, "Chain Migration, of Italians to Argentina: Case Studies of the Agnonesi and Sirolesi," Studi Emigrazione 19 (1982): p. 77; according to the passport registers in the municipal archive of Sutera only six families requested permission to emigrate overseas between 1880 and 1899.
32. ACS, "Registro delle domande di Nulla Osta per ottenere passaporto per l'estero 1901-1904," cat. XII, cl. 3, fasc. 2.
33. Gero Difrancesco, Sutera: I primi anni dell '900 (Caltanissetta, 1989), pp. 29-52.
34. ACS, "Memo Dal Sindaco di Sutera al Ispettore Scolastico dal Circondario, 2 Giugno, 1908," cat. IX. cl. 2. fasc. 1.
35. The description of the typical migrant from Sutera is based on family reconstructions (taken from birth and marriage records) and passport records. This sample of over 600 migrants shows that 86 percent of all emigrants were male, the average age was twenty-nine years old and more than half of them were married before they left. N early 90 percent were agricultural workers, and 10 percent were artisans.
36. The financial position of women in the family is well documented in Sicilian ethnography and government reports. See Inchiesta, VI, tomo 1, parte 3, p. 26; Giuseppe Pitre, La famiglia, la casa, la vita del popolo Siciliano (Palermo, 1913), pp. 33-4; Charlotte Chapman-Gower, Milocca: A Sicilian Village (Cambridge, 1971), p. 38. The participation of Sicilian women in organizing migrant groups is based on family reconstructions drawn from the birth, marriage and migration records between 1880 and 1930 in the Archivio Comunale di Sutera.
37. Migrants who permanently settled overseas also believed in the importance of education. See Briggs, An Italian Passage, pp. 191-244.
38. ACS, "Memos: Scuole seriale e festivi, 1904, 1906, 1907," cat. IX. cl. 1-8.
39. MAIC, DGS, Censimento della popolazione del regno al 31 dicembre 1901, II (Rome, 1903), p. 277; MAIC, DGS, Censimento della popolazione del regno d Italia al giugno 1911, 11 (Rome, 1914), p. 568.
40. Antonio Mangano, "The Effect of Emigration Upon Italy: 'Ci manca la mano d'opera', 'We Lack the Working Hand,'" Charities and Commons 20 (4 April 1908): 17.
41. Archivio dello Stato-Caltanissetta (ASC), Catasti dei terreni, 1880-1930 and Catasti dei fabricatti. 1880-1930. The literacy requirement for special permits and licenses was stipulated in the Orlando Law of 1904.
42. MAIC, DGS, Censimento della popolazione del regno al 31 dicembre 1901, III (Rome, 1903), pp. 272-320; MAIC, DGS, Censimento della popolazione del regno d'Italia al giugno 1911, III (Rome, 1914), pp. 331-32; MAIC, DGS, Censimento della popolazione del regno al 31 dicembre 1921, XIII (Rome, 1927), pp. 508-525. Census information shows that the percentage of women workers in Caltanissetta engaged in commercial activities rose from 8.42 percent in 1901, to 10.26 percent in 1911, to 24.67 percent in 1921. Anecdotal evidence for Sutera is taken from interviews I conducted in the spring and summer of 1991.
43. Interview, spring 1991.
44. Chapman-Gower, Milocca, p. 20.
45. Robert Foerster, The Italian Emigration of Our Times (1919 Reprint: New York, 1969), p. 460.
46. ACS, "Iscritti nelle scuole maschile, classe 1, 1899-1900" cat. IX. cl. 2. fasc. 9; ACS, "Iscritti nelle scuole maschile, classe 1, 1909-1910," cat. IX, cl. 2, fasc. 9.
47. Archivio della Scuola Elementare a Sutera (ASES), "Elenchi degli iscritti, abbandoni e promossi dal 1900-1914."
48. ACS, "Iscritte nelle scuole femminile 1904-1905," cat. IX. cl. 1, fasc. 9; ACS, "Iscritte nelle scuole femminile 1906-1907," cat. IX. d. 1, fasc. 9.
49. ACS, "Memo dal Prefettura: Provveditorato agli studi scuola Rabato, 12 novembre 1909," cat. IX, cl. 11, fasc. 1. ACS, "Iscritte nelle scuole femminile, 1906-1907; 1909-1910," cat IX 1.1. fasc. 9.
50. ACS, "Iscritte nelle scuole femminile 1901-1902," cat. IX, cl. 1, fasc. 9; ACS, "Iscritte nelle scuole femminile 1906-1907," cat. IX, cl. 1, fasc. 9.
51. Charles Tilly, "Transplanted Networks," in Immigration Reconsidered: History, Sociology, and Politics, ed. Virginia Yans-McLaughlin (New York, 1990), p. 84; Ewa Morowska, "The Sociology and Historiography of Immigration," in Immigration Reconsidered, p. 192; Kerby Miller, "Irish-American Ethnicity," in Immigration Reconsidered, p. 98.
52. Interviews with Suteresi today reflect the depth of their pride in their town. Local histories of the turn of the century constantly glorify Sutera's importance in the great events of Christianity and Italian history.
53. In the local archive in Sutera there are numerous letters and memos testifying to the fact that women turned to local officials to send messages to their husbands and to utilize the resources of the Italian consulate networks to search for their missing men. Money orders always went through the Banco di Napoli.
54. Inchiesta, VI, tomo 1, parte 3, p. 850.
55. Miller, "Irish-American Ethnicity," p. 98.
56. ACS, "Memo dal sindaco alla questura di Napoli, 1907," cat. XV, cl. 8a.
57. Guibernau, Nationalisms, pp. 46-8.
58. Bonetta, Istruzione, pp. 285, 290-1; Francesco Bettini, I programmi di studio per le scuole elementari dal 1860 al 1945 (Brescia, 1953), p. 40. For a general discussion of linguistic unity and national identity see Weber, Peasants, pp 303-38; and Susan Cotts Watkins, From Provinces into Nations: Demographic Integration in Western Europe, 1870-1960 (Princeton, 1991), pp. 114-21.
59. Bettini, I programmi, p. 34.
60. Giovanni Scavia, L'uomo e l'universo (Torino, 1861), p. 61; The first Italian textbooks appeared in the beginning of the nineteenth century. In 1836 a draft of L.A. Parravicini's book, Giannetto, won first prize in a contest offered by La Societa Fiorentina, and was published in 1838. Over fifty editions of Giannetto were eventually published, and this work became the model for textbooks well into the twentieth century. The chapters were divided into L'uomo I suoi bisogni e I suoi doveri, Nozioni di Geografia, Esempi domestici sui doveri and Esempi di morale domestica. The readings explored the central ideas of civic duty, science, literature and arithmetic through stories that traced the familial and school life of Giannetto, a young boy growing up in the north. In the 1880s and 1890s the number of textbooks published expanded rapidly, but most were still based on Parravicini's model. Until the end of the nineteenth century, teachers were permitted to select their own texts. By 1905 teachers were required to submit suggestions to a provincial committee for approval. The committee approved books on a three year basis. See L.A. Parravicini, Giannetto ((Bologna, 1838); For more information on the distribution of textbooks see Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione, "La scelta dei libri di testo," I diritti della scuola, 21 (Rome, 5 March 1905): 163.
61. Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione, "Indice della materie-programmi e istruzione per le scuole elementari," Bollettino Ufficiale del Ministero dell'Istruzione pubblica, Supplemento al N. 9, I (Rome 2 March 1904): 481; Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione, Bollettino Ufficale del Ministero dell'istruzione pubblica, Supplemento al No. 42, II (Roma: 19 ottobre, 1900), p. XII. The utilization of public schools to spread specific values and beliefs is obviously not unique to Italy. The French school system was particularly adept at instilling the same values through classroom texts and curriculum development. Linda L. Clark, Schooling the Daughters of Marianne: Textbooks and the Socialization of Girls in Modern French Primary Schools (Albany, NY, 1984), pp. 26-59.
62. Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione, "Indice della materie-programmi e istruzione per le scuole elementari," Bollettino Ufficiale del Ministero dell'Istruzione pubblica, Supplemento al N. 9, I (Rome: 2 March 1904): 543.
63. Scavia, L'Uomo, pp. 89-90. This conception of the state was often associated with Giuseppe Mazzini and the Italian Unification. A number of textbooks and pedagogical works reminded their readers that Mazzini, the father of the Italian state, had first equated the nation with the family.
64. See Benedict Anderson, Nations, for a discussion on the creation of the state as an imagined community.
65. Ildebrando Bencivenni, II libro completo per gli alunni e le alunne della 3 cl. elementare (Turin, 1880), p. 18.
66. An excellent example of the gendered construction of citizenship can be found in Luigi Natoli's In Cammino ... letture educative per le scuole elementare urbane maschile e femminili (Palermo, 1905), pp. 155-61.
67. Guido Fabiani, Casa mia! Patria mia! Libro di lettura per la 3a classe elementare femminile (Milan, 1903), p. 147.
68. Geltrude Malagoli, Un vezzo di perle: alle giovinette della scuola popolare (Rocca San Casciano, ed., 1913), p. 14.
69. Ermilinda Fornari, Le fanciulle per bene: Galateo per le fanciulle ad uso delle scuole elementari femminile (Palermo, ed., 1880), p. 125.
70. Malagoli, Un Vezzo, pp. 89-90.
71. Scavia, L'Uomo, pp. 10-32; Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione, Istruzioni e programmi per l'insegnamento delle primi nozioni di agricoltura, del lavoro manuale educative, dei lavori donneschi, dell'igiene e dell'economia domestica nelle scuole elementari approvati con R. Decreto 10 aprile, 1899 (Rome, 1899), pp. cxcvi, 38.
72. Angelo Mosso, "Il passato e l'avvenire della educazione fisica," Nuova Antologia, LXII, series 4 (1896): 156.
73. Clark, Schooling, chapters 3 and 5. Linda Clark suggests that some students and teachers opposed the glorification of domestic work and ridiculed the moral messages of thrift, hard work, modesty and obedience that permeated classroom lessons. By World War I, these messages blatantly contradicted the reality of women's experience. Married women often did not have the luxury of staying home and caring for their children. While examinations and notebooks suggest that most students accepted the basic principles underlying elementary school curriculum, it does not appear that they necessarily changed their behavior based on what they learned at school. These contradictions were not as obvious in rural Sicily at the beginning of the twentieth century.
74. Emma Alaimo, Proverbi Siciliani (Florence, 1974), pp. 63-78.
75. Francesco Paulo Menniti, "Per le scuole rurali-e per le scuole serali e festivi: Note ed appunti," La Scuola in Azione, 14 (15 January, 1905): 175.
76. Antonio Gramsci, Letteratura e vita nazionale (Turin, 1954), p. 104.
77. Clarice Tartufari, "Vaghe Stelle dell'Orsa," Giornale di Sicilia (15-16 March, 1913): 3 Carola Prosperi, "Una Lezione d'Umilita," Giornale di Sicilia (24-25 February, 1913): 2.
78. "Da Calabria Giolosa Ionica" Giornale di Sicilia (13-14 December, 1909): 4.
79. Donna Gabaccia, "In the Shadows of the Periphery: Italian Women in the Nineteenth Century," in Connecting Spheres, eds. Marilyn J. Boxer and Jean H. Quataert (New York, 1987), pp. 166-76; Jole Calapso, "La donna in Sicilia e in Italia: La realta e falsa coscienza nella statistica dal 1871 ad oggi, Quaderni Siciliani, 2 (March-April, 1973): 13-20.
80. Inchiesta, VI, tomo 1, parte 3, pp. 813-18.
81. See advertisements in Giornale di Sicilia, (1-29 March 1911, 1-29 March 1913, 129 March 1925); for a discussion of how migrants spent their money see Inchiesta, VI, tomo. 1, parte 3, pp. 832-33; for information on the cultural worth of material possessions see Chapman-Gower, Milocca, pp. 19, 131.
82. Advertisement, Giornale di Sicilia (13-14 December, 1909): 6.
83. Inchiesta, VI, tomo 1, parte 3, p. 53.
84. Shampoos, lotions, and medicines were advertised in Giornale di Sicilia continually from 1909-1925. Aspirin was advertised in Giornale di Sicilia, (1-2 March 1925), p. 6.
85. de Grazia, "Empowering Women," pp. 275-77.
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|Publication:||Journal of Social History|
|Date:||Sep 22, 1998|
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