Francesco Ricatti

Voices of Italian women in Australia


Two contrasting narratives emerge from stories about Italian migrant mothers in postwar Australia. Discourse about these women has often portrayed and celebrated them as the quintessential incarnation of the virtues of the Italian catholic family. Within such discourse, more intense, controversial and at times tragic aspects of their lives have often been either silenced or attributed to the corrupting effects of migration. At the same time, much more ambiguous and complex narratives have emerged in women’s own memories and stories, which have been preserved in letters, diaries, autobiographies and interviews. Through a comparison between these two different kinds of discourse, the paper will consider some important issues in the study of motherhood and mammismo in migratory contexts, including the peculiarities of transnational mammismo, the complex relationship between public and private memories of motherhood, and the need for a comparative and multidisciplinary approach.