WOMEN, WORK, AND MIGRATION
"I came over here in 1913 with my father and sister because I wanted to work," Caterina recalled. At age sixteen, she left Italy for New York to help earn the wages needed to support her mother and younger siblings on their small plot of land in Calabria, where her father eventually returned. "I cried all the time for my mother . . . [but] I liked it because I had work, dressed up here better than over there, and I send the money to my mother so she can live."
Caterina began working as an "operator" in a men's shirt factory "right away when I come into this country," a job she got through her father's cousin, with whom they lived in Brooklyn. Over her husband's objections, she continued to "sew shirts" after marriage until her first child was born. She joined the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) "because of the benefits" and went to meetings after work when they were held in the shop. Although Caterina stayed home while her children were young, once they were old enough to be left alone she returned to work, this time in a coat factory, where she was employed for the next twenty years.
Pasqualina's mother, a widow with three children, had a small millinery shop "with girls working under her" in the tiny city of Catanzaro, Calabria. She made "beautiful hats" that the "rich people used to pay a lot of money for"; but during World War I, materials, cash, and food became scarce, making it difficult for her to support the family. Pasqualina's oldest sister and brother left first for New York, followed a year later by Pasqualina and her mother.