Maria Susanna Garroni

The “nonna”, the “mom”: what’s in a word?  Italian and Italian American mothers in the United States at the turn of last century.

The socio-cultural and economic environment first generation Italian women experienced as they arrived in the United States changed the role they had had as mothers in their country of origin. As strategies of adjustment, they hung on to the behaviour they knew and their cultural tradition helped them to overcome some of the obstacles they faced. Both approaches offered them some tools to adapt to the new living conditions (Gabaccia) but created at times barriers with the second generation of Italian American women (Tirabassi). The family structure as much as the emotional and economic relationship with the offspring took on unforeseen, unprecedented  developments in a short time and in comparison with the mother country.  How did these two different groups of Italian immigrant women become Italian American mothers? And is there a “typical” Italian American mother? By looking at different sources such as statistical data, oral history collections and some images from popular culture this paper will try to advance some tentative answers.