Celebrating Italian-American Women in History

Mar 23, 2013 2030

Did you know that March is Women's History Month? In honor of all the Italian-American women that have shaped the people we've become, whether it be mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters or friends, we're dedicating this blog to the matriarchs that have continued to push our families forward and make the world a better place.

To add to the list of amazing Italian-American women in your personal lives, we're naming the top five most influential Italian-American women who helped us all get to where we are today.

Angela Bambace: Angela Bambace organized the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) in New York and Maryland in the early 1900s. After starting as a worker in a shirtwaist factory in New York, Bambace was eventually elected vice president of the ILGWU in 1956, becoming the first woman to break through the all-male leadership of the organization.

Saint Frances Cabrini: After emigrating from Sant'-Angelo, Italy to the United States, Maria Francesca Cabrini founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. After recruiting over 4,000 sisters to help her efforts, she founded 14 American colleges, 98 schools, 28 orphanages, eight hospitals, and three training schools. She was the first American saint after her canonization in 1946.

Catherine De Angelis, M.D.: Catherine De Angelis became the first woman editor of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2000. After putting herself through college and medical school, she served as Vice Dean at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Geraldine Ferraro: Geraldine Anne Ferraro became the first woman and first Italian-American vice-presidential candidate on a national party ticket in 1984. Ferraro skipped three grades to finish high school at 16, won a college scholarship and put herself through law school.

Mary Lou Retton: Mary Lou Retton was the first female gymnast from outside Eastern Europe to win the Olympic gold medal in the women's individual all-around competition at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, C.A. She was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.

And let's not forget the Italian-American women who inspired these icons:

Rosie the Riveter: Named after Rosie Bonavita from Long Island, N.Y., the image represented millions of American women who replaced male factory workers during World War II and helped get the country back on its feet.

Miss Liberty, Peace Dollar: Modeled by Maria Teresa Cafarelli de Francisci from Clinton, M.A., the peace dollar was minted yearly from 1921 to 1928 and again in 1934 and 1935 as a commemorative of peace.

Our Italian mothers, and grandmothers before them, may have started out as seamstresses in a small backroom of a house, with dreams of doing something more, but thanks to their hard work and dedication, their Italian-American children, and their children's children, no longer have to dream- it can finally be a reality.

Who would you add to our list? Tell us about an Italian-American woman that has influenced your life in the comments below.

*Please note that this list of Italian-American women is not intended to be inclusive.

Written by OSIA Social Media & Communications Coordinator, Krystyne Hayes.

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