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Gendered Politics

A Case Study of Italian-American Women’s Mobilization in the New Deal Era

Stefano Luconi

Texte intégral

  • 1 Bueker, Catherine Simpson, «Political Incorporation Among Immigrants from Ten Areas of Origin: The (...)

1Political incorporation resulting from voter participation is often a relevant feature of the migration experience. When the legislation of the receiving nations enables the newcomers to get naturalized and grants citizenship to their children born in the adoptive country by means of the jus soli, as is the case of the United States, casting ballots in the elections of the land of their destination usually becomes part of the first and second-generation immigrants’ accommodation into the host society. So does the opportunity to run for elective offices1.

  • 2 Degler, Carl N., «American Political Parties and the Rise of the City: An Interpretation», Journal (...)

2For the Italians who arrived in the United States in the period of the mass influx from overseas between the late 1870s and the early 1920s, the interwar years marked the beginning of their involvement in the political process. Italian Americans’ growing interest in going to the polls in the late 1920s and in the following decade occurred within the context of a remarkable increase in voter turnout that shaped the New Deal party system in the nation as a whole. Actually, the rise in electoral participation was so relevant in the United States during the 1930s that, according to a few studies, it was the key factor to the Democratic majorities which brought Franklin D. Roosevelt to the White House in 1932 and kept him in office until he died in 1945. In this view, Roosevelt’s following in the presidential races resulted less from the shift of voters’ allegiance from the Grand Old Party (gop) to the Democratic Party than from the mobilization of theretofore inactive electors. The latter cast their ballots for the first time to support Roosevelt in the aftermath of the economic crisis that ensued the collapse of the stock market in 19292.

  • 3 Allswang, John M., A House for All Peoples: Ethnic Politics in Chicago, 1890-1936, Lexington, Unive (...)
  • 4 Rice, Stuart D. and Willey, Malcolm M., «American Women’s Ineffective Use of the Vote», Current His (...)

3For a better understanding of the dynamics of the U.S. voting behavior in the 1930s, scholarship has addressed two additional variables besides the impact of the depression on partisanship and electoral allegiances. On the one hand, it has focused on the ethnic determinants of the vote and has concluded that the politicization of the immigrant groups of other-than-Anglo-Saxon stock foreran the beginning of the economic crisis. Consequently, studies have placed the establishment of the New Deal party system in a long-term perspective. As the prevailing argument goes, the mobilization of such minorities took place as early as 1928, when the nation’s economy still seemed robust, in response to the bid of New York State’s Governor Alfred E. Smith for the White House on the Democratic ticket. Smith was a Catholic of Irish descent who succeeded in playing on the appeal of his ancestry and religious affiliation to bring out the vote not only of his own fellow ethnics but also of a significant number of first- and second-generation immigrants from southern- and eastern-European backgrounds who easily identified themselves with the first presidential candidate of either major party who did not belong to the Wasp establishment. Therefore, although these latter cohorts of the electorate had tended to shy away from the polls until then, they overcame their previous electoral apathy out of ethnic redress to support what they perceived as the first effective challenge to the monopoly of Anglo-Saxon and Protestant politicians over the highest federal office. To resort to political scientist Valdimer O. Key Jr.’s conventional formula, a «Smith Revolution» in 1928 preceded the «Roosevelt Revolution» in 19323. On the other hand, historians have examined the gender dimension, highlighting the fact that the mobilization of the New Deal years followed a steep decline in voter turnout during the previous decade in the wake of the 1920 ratification of the 19th amendment of the Constitution that had granted women a federal guarantee of their right to vote. In this view, such a provision doubled the size of the eligible electorate, but it also swelled its ranks with the entry of a large component of the adult population that was not as much motivated and willing to get involved in politics as the suffragist movement had previously implied. Against this backdrop, naturalized immigrant women even revealed a higher rate of nonvoting than those born in the United States. As a result, the enfranchisement of the mainly inactive female citizens depressed turnout, which reached a low of 48.9 percent in 1924 after dropping from 61.8 percent in 1916 to 49.3 percent in 1920, until the Democratic Party and Roosevelt himself made a specific point of pursuing the women’s vote4.

  • 5 U.S. Bureau of the Census, Fifteenth Census of the United States: 1930, Population, Washington, dc, (...)
  • 6 Treadway, Jack, Elections in Pennsylvania: A Century of Partisan Conflict in the Keystone State, Un (...)
  • 7 Greenberg, Irwin F., «Philadelphia Democrats Get a New Deal: The Election of 1933», Pennsylvania Ma (...)

4This essay offers a case study of the intertwinement of ethnic and gender factors in the electoral behavior of Italian-American women in the New Deal era. It concentrates on Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This city not only was home to the third largest Little Italy in the United States with 182,368 first- and second-generation members in 1930, which made up 9.4 percent of the total population in that year5. It was also a pre-New Deal Republican bailiwick in such a similar gop stronghold as Pennsylvania. For instance, in the 1920s the average support for the Republican party in gubernatorial elections equaled 80.3 percent in Philadelphia6. It was only in the mid 1930s that both the city and the state began to turn Democratic, in 1933 and 1934 respectively7. Consequently, Philadelphia offers an ideal milieu for the analysis of electoral behavior because it mirrored the transformation of the alignment of the party system during the New Deal era even at the local level.

  • 8 Registration Commission of Philadelphia, Annual Reports of the Registration Commission for the City (...)

5In particular, this study draws upon a specific official source of the municipal administration, the Annual Reports of the Registration Commission for the City of Philadelphia, which include a gender breakdown of actual voters for the years between 1926 and 19348. These data allow the quantification for the size of the female electoral participation in Philadelphia’s Italian-American community.

Philadelphia’s politics and Italian-American women’s apathy

  • 9 For Vare and his political machine, see Salter, John T., The People’s Choice. Philadelphia’s Willia (...)
  • 10 Wolfinger, Raymond, Philadelphia Divided: Race and Politics in the City of Brotherly Love, Chapel H (...)
  • 11 Vare, William S., My Forty Years in Politics, Philadelphia, Roland Swain, 1933, pp. 29-30.
  • 12 No ethnic breakdown is available for voting statistics concerning Philadelphia. Samples of the Ital (...)

6A powerful machine, headed by Republican Congressman William S. Vare, controlled the Italian-American vote in Philadelphia. Living at the bottom of the social ladder, many first- and second-generation immigrants regarded the suffrage as a sort of commodity that could be sold to the highest bidder in order to have access to political patronage spanning from employment with the municipal administration to a basket of food and a bucket of coal at Christmas time or even a handful of dollars outside the polling stations9. For instance, Vare enabled Italian Americans to exercise a virtual monopoly on the little-paying jobs with Philadelphia’s street cleaning department and a few newcomers recalled the chief ethnic broker in their community, Charles C.A. Baldi Sr., «handing out dollar bills to the needy»10. Vare’s motto – «take care of your people and your people will take care of you»11 – long paid off among Italian Americans. Remarkably, when Vare ran for the U.S. Senate in 1926 he carried their community by a 97.4 percent landslide. In the following years, however, the Republican hold on the voters of Italian ancestry began to crumble, at least in federal and state elections. Smith received 56.9 percent of the Italian-American ballots in 1928. After a brief resurgence of the gop in Philadelphia’s Little Italy in 1932, when incumbent president Herbert Hoover obtained 52.5 percent of its vote in his unsuccessful race for a second term, the Democratic candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, George H. Earle iii, secured a majority in the Italian-American community with 53.1 percent of the vote in 1934 and Roosevelt followed suit with 65.1 percent in 193612.

  • 13 Merriam, Charles E. and Gosnell, Harold F., Non-Voting: Causes and Methods of Control, Chicago, Uni (...)
  • 14 Gamm, The Making of New Deal Democrats cit., p. 82.
  • 15 LaGumina, Salvatore J., «American Political Process and Italian Participation in New York State», i (...)
  • 16 Mormino, Gary Ross, Immigrants on the Hill: Italian Americans in St. Louis, 1882-1982, Urbana, Univ (...)
  • 17 Stella, Antonio, Some Aspects of Italian Immigration to the United States, New York, G.P. Putnam’s (...)
  • 18 Parrillo, Vincent N., Diversity in America, Thousand Oaks, ca, Pine Forge Press, 2005, pp. 106-8.

7Italian women seemed tailor-made to curb turnout. Their belated enfranchisement in Italy, which did not occur until 1946, made female newcomers in the United States unfamiliar with electoral proceedings and helped keep them away from the polls in the adoptive country, too. In post-World War i Chicago, for instance, nonvoting was particularly high among women in the wards with a significant proportion of immigrants from Italy13. Likewise, in 1920 as little as 0.7 percent of the eligible Italian-American women were listed among the registered voters in Boston’s North End14. After all, the legacy of restrictions in the access to the suffrage in the motherland was a constraint on male mobilization as well. For example, in 1905, eight years prior to the enforcement of universal manhood suffrage in their native country, only 4 percent of Italian Americans bothered to cast their ballots in New York City, the seat of the largest Little Italy in the United States15. Similarly, in 1898 a precinct in St. Louis’ community included as few as three registered voters of Italian ancestry out of 180 Italian Americans who were eligible for the suffrage16. Conversely, the immigrants’ sojourner mentality and ensuing failure to secure such an inescapable requirement to qualify for the franchise as U.S. citizenship played a minor role in women’s nonvoting. On the one hand, females did not repatriate in numbers comparable to those of men. They were roughly one in five Italians returning from the United States in the first couple of years after the ratification of the 19th amendment17. On the other hand, the 1921 and 1924 restrictive legislation that put an end to the era of the birds of passages was enforced almost at the same time of the enfranchisement of women. Therefore, Italian females secured the right to vote on the eve of the demise of the very era of temporary immigration that had until then curtailed voting18.

  • 19 Cecchi, Emilio, Il voto alle donne, «Il Progresso Italo-Americano», 5 August 1923, p. 2-S.
  • 20 «Mrs. Levis Organizza Club Femminili», Gazzetta del Massachusetts, 28 August 1920, p. 7.
  • 21 «The Italian Women: Their Part in the Making of a Greater Italy», Il Carroccio, xix, 3, 1924, pp. 2 (...)
  • 22 De Bellis, Benedict, «Woman Suffrage Has Come», Gazzetta del Massachusetts, 4 September 1920, p. 3.

8It is likely that the spread of stereotypes and prejudices against politicized women among Italian Americans also discouraged the female cohorts of the Little Italies from going to the polls. For example,«Il Progresso Italo-Americano», a New York City-based daily that was the largest and most authoritative Italian-language newspaper in the United States, wondered whether women who longed for the vote were real women, alleging that their interest in politics revealed some masculine features19. According to the Gazzetta del Massachusetts, the Italian-American suffragettes were a sort of social pariahs in Boston’s Little Italy. Their children too, were discriminated against by playmates because of their mothers’ political activities20. Another Italian-language periodical published in New York City, Il Carroccio, contended that the suffrage movement did not stir up the enthusiasm of the average Italian woman, probably because the latter «in her efforts to broaden her sphere of life and action […] retains […] a larger portion of her feminine attractiveness and assumes generally less masculine airs than one is wont to see in women of other countries»21. The Gazzetta del Massachusetts even published alarming forecasts about the impact of the female franchise on American society. For instance, it remarked that «there has been an enormous increase of murders and divorces in California since that state gave women the suffrage. Also a general moral degeneration has marked the practice of woman suffrage»22.

  • 23 Deschamps, Bénédicte, De la presse «coloniale» à la presse italo-américaine: Le percours de six pér (...)
  • 24 Bencivenni, Marcella, Italian Immigrant Radical Culture: The Idealism of the Sovversivi in the Unit (...)
  • 25 Vezzosi, Elisabetta, Il socialismo indifferente: Immigrati italiani e Socialist Party negli Stati U (...)
  • 26 Buhle, Mary Jo, Women and American Socialism, 1870-1920, Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1981 (...)
  • 27 Vezzosi, Elisabetta, «Italian Immigrant Women: In Search of a Female Identity in Turn-of-the-Centur (...)

9Il Carroccio, «Il Progresso Italo-Americano», and the Gazzetta del Massachusetts were all conservative newspapers23. Nonetheless, Italian-American radicals, too, usually failed to conceive a political role for women that could place the latter beyond the sphere of domesticity24. Remarkably, there is no evidence of significant participation by Socialist women of Italian extraction in the struggle for the suffrage or in the legislative campaigns for reforms such as the introduction of mothers’ pensions during the Progressive Era25. Very few joined the Socialist Party26. Only one woman, poet Bellalma Forzato Spezia, served on the executive board of the Italian Socialist Federation during the two decades of life of this organization (1902-21)27.

  • 28 Yans-McLaughlin, Virginia, Family and Community: Italian Immigrants in Buffalo, 1880-1930, Ithaca, (...)

10Even when female immigrants were encouraged to get involved in politics and to cast their ballots the outcome was usually negligible. For instance, in Buffalo both the mainstream and Socialist ethnic press urged Italian women to vote as soon as New York State enfranchised its female citizens in 1917. Yet mobilization occurred primarily among the Italian-American politicians’ female close relatives, while most other women chose to stick to more traditional roles in the public sphere of their community. Actually, historian Virginia Yans-McLaughlin has observed that circa World War i in Buffalo «the most successful organizations founded by Italian women were not political clubs but charity societies»28.

  • 29 Hodge, Jessica, Frank Sinatra, North Dighton, ma, J.G. Press, 1994, p. 7; Guglielmo, Jennifer, Livi (...)
  • 30 Lovatelli, James, «Women of Foreign Birth – Vote!», Atlantica, xv, 2, 1933, pp. 64-65, p. 64.

11Furthermore, the immigrant women who rose to the position of ward leader in the hierarchy of either major party – as happened during the economic depression in the case of Dolly Sinatra (better known as singer Frank’s mother) within the Democratic organization in Hoboken, New Jersey – were a rarity29. As late as 1933, James Lovatelli – a Wall Street commodity broker who served as an adviser to the Foreign language Division of the National Republican Committee – contended that Italian-American women’s disinclination to vote resulted from «the opposition which they encounter from men at home»30. Lovatelli’s call on Italian-American women to go to the polls stirred mixed feelings in the male cohort of the Little Italies, an attitude that revealed the enduring skepticism toward female suffrage. For instance, writing from Baltimore, Maryland, a Hector J. Ciotti retorted that

  • 31 Ciotti, Hector J., «Letter to the Editor», Atlantica, xv, 3, 1933, p. 131.

While I do not believe in the active participation of women in politics, I am in hearty accordance with James Lovatelli’s article in that women of foreign birth should make full use of the ballot. As long as the law permits the women to vote, it would indeed be ridiculous to have American women vote while our Italians [sic] remained at home. Since there is little doubt but that women vote the same as the men of the family […] it would mean that the vote of an Italian whose wife stayed at home would be worth just one half of the vote of an American whose wife went with him to the polls31.

  • 32 The experience of Rosaria Saccomando in Buffalo, New York State, is reported by Garroni, Maria Susa (...)
  • 33 Garroni, Maria Susanna and Vezzosi, Elisabetta, «Italiane migranti», in Corti, Paola and Sanfilippo (...)

12Such a patriarchal vision of voting hardly reflected Italian-American women’s actual electoral behavior. There is evidence of a few cases of wives who registered for a party other than that of their respective husbands to assert their independence32. Yet Ciotti’s words reveal an ethnic political culture that did not encourage female voter participation in the Little Italies. Nevertheless, it was not only the Italian heritage that interfered with the immigrant women’s political involvement. The U.S. public discourse contributed to it, too. In particular, Americanization programs pointed to separate gender spheres, stressing domesticity for the new female citizens and the political responsibility for their male counterpart33.

  • 34 Varbero, Richard A., «The Politics of Ethnicity: Philadelphia’s Italians in the 1920’s», in Cordasc (...)

13Philadelphia’s Little Italy was no exception to the pattern of female apathy and male chauvinism in the field of politics. Efforts by Concetta Lippi and Anna Russo to stimulate Italian-American women’s turnout on the occasion of the 1920 presidential election – the first race for the White House that followed the enforcement of the 19th amendment – fell on deaf ears and crashed against a prevailing patriarchal view of political participation in Philadelphia’s Little Italy34. The standard reply of Lippi’s and Russo’s fellow-ethnic women who declined to register to cast their ballots, notwithstanding their recent enfranchisement, was «It is my husband who must vote and not I». Going to the polls was regarded as unbecoming women among Italian Americans. Even the only officer of Italian extraction in the local Registration Commission, Ernest Ayella, argued in his broken English that

  • 35 «Signorinas» Shy at Little Italy Polls, «Evening Bulletin», 3 September 1920, p. 25.

For the signorinas it is to cook and wash and to have children. What more? Nothing! Well, may be I theenk it good for the women to vote eef they have many children, but otherwise no. I registered four women today, two Italianas and two colored. They are not married. What good are they? Eef my wife votes, I make her go out to work or else I make her take in washing35.

14The only exception to the rule of female nonvoting that Ayella contemplated referred to families with numerous dependents. Large households were most likely to live in economic hardships. In this case, political participation was legitimate for women too, because casting ballots could become an effective means to make ends meet by exploiting the quid-pro-quo practices of machine politics.

15In general, however, Italian Americans thought that voting was inconvenient to women. In 1926, Eugene V. Alessandroni – the head of the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge of the Order Sons of Italy in America, the largest and most influential Italian-American ethnic benevolent society nationwide – complained in a letter to the members of his organization that:

  • 36 Eugene V. Alessandroni, circular letter to the members of the Order Sons of Italy in America, Phila (...)

We prevent our women, wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters, from voting for a bias that is erroneously rooted in our minds. It is a big mistake that comes home to roost because, by doing this, we undermine our political clout that would consolidate our political strength and prestige if exploited otherwise36.

  • 37 Young Democrats Name Committees, unidentified newspaper clipping, Anne Brancato Wood Collection, Ne (...)
  • 38 Handmaiden of Vareville Democracy Amazed to Find Herself Legislator, «Philadelphia Inquirer», 10 No (...)
  • 39 Jeansonne, Glean, Herbert Hoover: Fighting Quaker, 1928-1933, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012 (...)
  • 40 Rymph, Catherine E., Republican Women: Feminism and Conservatism from Suffrage through the Rise of (...)

16Eventually, Philadelphia’s Italian-American women were not impervious to Smith’s ethnic appeal. Their turnout rose by 19 percent between 1926 and 1928 while the support for the Democratic Party jumped from 2.6 percent to 56.9 percent in their community as a whole. These newly active voters were mainly born in the United States from immigrant parents such as Anna M. Brancato, Ann Tierno, Kay Brancato, and Carmen Piniello, who established a Young Women Democratic Club in South Philadelphia, the heart of the city’s Italian-American community37. To them, politics «didn’t mean an awful lot» until the year Smith made his unsuccessful presidential bid38. The candidate of other-than-Anglo-Saxon-stock who had literarily grown up on the «sidewalks of New York», as his campaign song emphasized, had a magnetic attraction that his Republican opponent, Herbert Hoover, failed to exert with his «two chickens in every pot» slogan while in the Little Italy «not only did the people have no chickens – they had no pots»39. In addition, it could be easily suggested that the primarily working-class members of the female cohort of Philadelphia’s Italian-American eligible electorate could hardly identify themselves with the gop as the local chapter of the Republican Women of Pennsylvania was controlled by socialites of Anglo-Saxon descent40.

  • 41 Andersen, The Creation of a Democratic Majority cit., p. 9; Lubell, Samuel, The Future of American (...)

17The voting behavior of Philadelphia’s Italian-American women mirrored trends in female participation nationwide. Indeed, scholarship has argued that a gender gap shaped the 1928 mobilization for Smith in the cities that had been the destination of significant immigrant waves. For instance, according to Samuel Lubell, «the outpouring of women lifted the number of voters» by 44 percent in Boston, as «Smith made women’s suffrage a reality for the urban poor». Likewise, David Burner has maintained that «an apparent rise in voting among Roman Catholic women» contributed to the Democratic candidate’s electoral following. He has also pointed out that female turnout grew by 29 percent in Boston’s Italian-American community between 1924 and 192841.

18In Philadelphia’s Little Italy, however, as the male voter participation increased by 26.9 percent from 1926 to 1928, women lagged behind men with a 19-percent rise in the early stage of the electoral mobilization of the New Deal era. It was only in 1932 that women took the lead. After patrician Franklin D. Roosevelt had replaced Smith at the top of the ticket, the Democratic Party lost its majority in the Italian-American community, receiving only 46.4 percent of the vote in 1932. But, between 1928 and 1932, the female turnout grew by 22.9 percent, as opposed to a 6.1 percent rise in electoral participation among the males.

Enters Anna M. Brancato

  • 42 «Unemployment Survey of Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.», Monthly Labor Review, xxxii, 3, 1931, pp. (...)
  • 43 The Pennsylvania Manual cit., 1929, pp. 524, 1065.

19One might easily suggest that a large number of theretofore inactive women went to the polls in 1932 in order to profit from the help of political patronage after the unemployment rate had reached 30.3 percent in South Philadelphia at the height of the economic depression42. However, the timing of the relevant growth in female voting in Philadelphia in the early 1930s cannot be accounted for in full without considering the composition of the ticket of the Democratic Party for state offices. Against this backdrop, women’s 1932 lead in mobilization coincided with the opening of the Democratic slate to the first Italian-American female candidate. That year the Democratic Party ran Anna M. Brancato for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in Philadelphia’s 5th district of the General Assembly. With the gop in control of the great bulk of patronage, the politics of identity was the main tool to which Democrats could resort in order to win votes among the minority cohorts of the electorate. They allotted places for lesser offices on their own ticket among immigrant candidates to lure the members of their respective communities in the hope that a vote-for-a-fellow-ethnic campaign would bring additional support to the Democratic Party as a whole. In 1928 the successful candidacy of Biagio Catania – an immigrant from the province of Messina – for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in the 1st district had probably contributed to consolidating Smith’s following in Philadelphia’s Little Italy43. This strategy had a replica on the occasion of the subsequent presidential election. Slating a woman seemed to be even more effective in the efforts to mobilize the still politically lukewarm female cohort of the Italian-American electorate in 1932.

  • 44 Woman Legislator to Be Speaker on «Italian Day», «Berwick Enterprise», 1933, newspaper clipping, ab (...)
  • 45 Thousands Cheer Smith in Scores of City Rallies, «Philadelphia Record», undated clipping, abwc.
  • 46 Clark, Dennis, The Irish in Philadelphia: Ten Generations of Urban Experience, Philadelphia, Temple (...)
  • 47 Salter, John T., Boss Rule: Portraits in City Politics, New York, McGraw-Hill, 1935, p. 203.
  • 48 Reinhold, Frances L., «Anna Brancato: State Representative», in Salter, John T. (ed.), The American (...)
  • 49 Farmerie, Samuel A., «Pennsylvania Legislators, 1901-1963», Pennsylvania History, xxxiv, 1, 1967, p (...)

20The daughter of an immigrant from the province of Naples who operated a grocery store, Brancato had made a name for herself in the Democratic circles in 1928 by addressing political gatherings in South Philadelphia and serving as a watcher at the polls, though over the objections of her own father who – as she subsequently recalled – «didn’t go much for politics»44. At that time, there were no Italian-American women in the local Democratic organization45. On the one side, the Irish had usually controlled it, especially in South Philadelphia, and tended to exclude the members of other ethnic minorities regardless of their gender46. On the other, male voters often resented the resort to female campaigners whose presumed «place was at home, and not at the polls»47. Yet the fact that the Democrats had very few active members in a city that had been a Republican stronghold until 1928 was an asset because it offered Brancato plenty of opportunities to make her way up the Democratic hierarchy in a reasonably short time. She thought of herself as «the best vote-getter that the Party has among women»48. Her statement might have resulted from a good dose of bravado. Still it is also likely that the Democratic officials offered twenty-nine-year-old Brancato a slot on the ticket and the necessary support in the primaries for the formal nomination so as to increase their political following within a largely inactive cohort of the Italian-American eligible electorate that would help the party make additional gains over the gop. The data presented earlier for the 1928 presidential race contribute to demonstrating that the shift of Philadelphia’s Italian-American community from a Republican to a Democratic majority resulted in part from the entry of new voters into the ranks of the participating electorate. Therefore, the Democratic organization was interested in further stimulating the political mobilization of Italian-American women by exploiting the gender appeal of one of them. Both major parties in Pennsylvania had a long and established tradition of neglecting women in the allotment of candidacies for the state legislature and Congress, especially when they seemed to have good chances to win elections, as was definitely the case of the year 1932 for the Democrats. If the latter slated Brancato, it means that they did intend to reach out to the female component of the Italian-American electorate in Philadelphia49.

  • 50 Hacker, Kathy, A Woman Who Dared to Buck the System, «Evening Bulletin», 8 November 1979, p. 21.
  • 51 Phila. Women’s Democratic Club Plans Outing, unidentified newspaper clipping, 1932, abwc.

21Brancato’s campaign – going «door-to-door each night with her briefcase full of campaign literature, arguing the need for drastic social reform and trying to persuade the voters to switch their allegiance» – could initially seem «the ultimate exercise in futility»50. Eventually, it was not. Walking along a path that no woman of Italian extraction had trodden in Philadelphia and in Pennsylvania as a whole until then, Brancato easily became a symbol for her fellow-ethnic females. One of them, Theresa F. Bucchieri, pointed out at a meeting of the Philadelphia Women’s Democratic Club that Brancato was an example for and the epitome of the progress of her Italian-American «sisters». As she put it, «Slowly but surely the daughters of yesterday’s Italian immigrants are mounting in increasing numbers to some of the most enviable and honored positions in American life»51.

  • 52 Woman Democrat Tells of Victory, unidentified and undated newspaper clipping, abwc.
  • 53 New Woman Legislator to Fight for More Playgrounds – and Beer, «South Philadelphian», 12 November 1 (...)

22Brancato’s 1932 platform centered on the repeal of prohibition and the construction of additional playgrounds in South Philadelphia. While the former plank mirrored the national stand of the Democratic Party in the presidential elections, the latter revealed a special understanding of an issue that was of great concern with Italian-American mothers who were worried about the lack of recreational facilities for their children. Therefore, though single and childless, Brancato touched a sensitive chord among the female voters of the Little Italy, who crowded her parents’ home en masse to celebrate her victory52. Her platform encouraged Italian-American women to identify themselves with her candidacy, beyond any consideration of mere ethnic and gender solidarity, and to enter the participating electorate in order to cast their ballots for her53.

  • 54 Success Thrills Girl Legislator, «Evening Bulletin», 10 November 1932, p. 2; Harrison, Dorothy Ann, (...)
  • 55 In conversazione con la signorina Anna M. Brancato, «Il Progresso Italo-Americano», undated clippin (...)

23It was hardly by a chance that the 1932 increase in female turnout was higher in Brancato’s constituency than within the Italian-American electorate as a whole. It rose by 39.7 percent in the 5th district, as opposed to 22.9 percent in the Little Italy at large, between 1928 and 1932 as well as by 27.8 percent in the former, as opposed to 23.4 percent in the latter, between 1930 and 1932. Remarkably, in a constituency where each party could slate three candidates for the three seats at stake and electors could express three preferences, Brancato received more votes than both her victorious Democratic running mates, who comprised fellow-ethnic Charles Melchiorre, and her unsuccessful Republican opponents, who included Italian-American Joseph Argentieri. On the other hand, Brancato, who made a living as a salesperson for a photographer, did not match the stereotype of the masculine woman getting involved in politics that had spread in the Italian-American community in the wake of the ratification of the 19th amendment. It seems that a few newspaper reports drawing on gossips about her alleged two suitors helping her in the election campaign eventually annoyed Brancato. Nonetheless these articles portrayed her as a standard woman with a normal life, as well as the pride of a traditional and patriarchal Italian family with six additional children whom she had helped her mother to rear by staying at home after finishing grammar school54. They, therefore, contributed to disproving those hindrances to women’s political participation, resulting from deeply ingrained standards of femininity and masculinity, such as the manly and deviant characterization of the suffragettes in the Italian-language press in the early 1920s. After all, in a rather vague and half-hearted endorsement after Brancato had secured the Democratic nomination,«Il Progresso Italo-Americano» pointed out that «fortunately for her, she enjoys a great dose of femininity which sets her aside from the extremism of modern feminism»55.

  • 56 Smull’s Legislative Hand Book and Manual of the State of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, pa, J.L.L. Kuhn, (...)
  • 57 Dopo la vittoria, «La Libera Parola», 12 November 1932, p. 3; «The Italians in the United States», (...)
  • 58 Brancato, Anna, Background, typescript, n.d., Anne Brancato Wood Papers, Manuscript Group 2701, box (...)

24Six representatives of Italian extraction from Philadelphia had served in the State House of Representatives before 1933: five Republicans (Frank G. Mumma, 1905-8; Charles C.A. Baldi Jr., 1917-32; Nicholas Di Lemmo, 1919-20; Joseph F. Baldi, 1929-30; and Joseph Argentieri, 1931-32) and one Democrat (Biagio Catania, 1929-30)56. In November 1932 Brancato became the first woman of any ethnic lineage ever to get elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly on the Democratic ticket and, as such, she received instant notoriety in the Italian-American community that immediately appropriated her success as a triumph for the Little Italy as a whole57. However, in the legislature, she focused less on ethnic than on gender issues. After all, while campaigning for office, she had only paid lip service to her Italianness, often revealing sheer ignorance about her ancestral country. For instance, as Brancato emphasized the Italians’ contribution to western civilization in the conventional effort to confute bigoted allegations that her fellow-ethnic immigrants belonged to an inferior people, she maintained that «Dante raised the finest Cathedrals in the world», mistaking Italy’s best-known poet for an architect58.

  • 59 Calls on Women to Push Own Code, unidentified and undated newspaper clipping, abwc.

25In the State House of Representatives Brancato stood out as a leading advocate of women’s rights. To this end, she did not even refrain from crossing party lines to join forces with the only two other female legislators, Socialist Lilith M. Wilson from Berks County and Republican Martha M. Pennock from Philadelphia, in order to promote social programs that could address women’s concerns59.

  • 60 Beirne v. Continental-Equitable Title & Trust Co., 307 Pa. 570, 161 Atl. 721 (1932).
  • 61 Brancato, Anna, Modern Portia Aids Widows, «Evening Public Ledger», 11 February 1933, abwc.
  • 62 Anna Brancato esordisce nell’agone politico, «L’Opinione», 16 February 1933, p. 4.

26Few months before Brancato took office the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had ruled that a husband could deprive his wife of any claim to his own estate after his death by means of a deed of trust60. In response to such a ruling, the first bill Brancato introduced aimed at protecting a widow’s rights to her deceased husband’s personal property61. Philadelphia’s local Italian-language daily, «L’Opinione», made fun of her in male chauvinistic overtones. The newspaper argued that, a young and romantic spinster, Brancato ignored that many wives were used to cheating on their husbands. The latter, therefore, should be entitled to prevent their «carefree, capricious, and unfaithful» widows from continuing «to enjoy themselves more shamelessly and more freely» with the departed’s hard-earned savings62.

  • 63 Shuns «Woman» Label in House, unidentified newspaper clipping, 1932, abwc.
  • 64 Woman Solon Asks for No Favors, «Pittsburgh Press», 18 January 1933, p. 1.

27Brancato went to the General Assembly in Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, without any overt intention to make her gender an issue in the legislative process and debate. As she stated after winning her seat in the House, «I wasn’t elected as a woman. I was elected as a representative, and here I have a representative’s work to do, not a woman’s alone»63. Therefore, she did not want to be called a «woman legislator»64. Yet remarks such as the above-mentioned comments by «L’Opinione» strengthened her female characterization. For instance, she declared that

  • 65 Brancato, Anna, Not until 1920, typescript, n.d., Anne Brancato Wood Papers, box 3, folder Speeches(...)

I am proud to be able to represent our sex in the legislature of our government and I realize despite the great advances made by women in the last century during the few years in which they have shown a militant interest, there is yet a long struggle ahead to achieve a greater measure of equality and a wider application of the woman’s stand point65.

  • 66 Miss Brancato Gives Peep Behind Legislative Scenes, unidentified newspaper clippings, 25 May 1933, (...)

28Specifically, to those who questioned the legitimacy of a female legislator she retorted that «a great many people wondered what right, I, a woman, had in the legislature. Well, when I went to Harrisburg and looked at some of the men, I wondered what right some of them had to be there». She also made the point that a female representative could bring fresh air to the decision-making process. On the one hand, she promised that she would help inject issues concerning children, women, and the welfare state into Pennsylvania’s political agenda. On the other, she committed herself to refraining from yielding to a tradition of corrupt maneuvering that had long shaped the law-making process in the General Assembly66.

29A female politician, Brancato regarded herself as part of a larger movement to reform politics. As she contended, showing her gender consciousness,

  • 67 Brancato, Anna, untitled and undated typescript, Anne Brancato Wood Papers, box 3, folder Notes (ha (...)

We need more honesty in government; we need more integrity in public life; we need more intelligence in the formation of national and international policies – in brief, what the world needs today is more women on the ballot […] more women in elective offices. More women in positions of trust. It is agreed generally that women by their very nature may be dependent upon to perform not merely efficient, but indeed, conscientious, service in whatever service they are called upon to exercise67.

  • 68 Anna in Legislature-Land, «Philadelphia Record», 29 May 1933, p. 11.
  • 69 See, e.g., Lena Giannini to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Philadelphia, 10 November 1932, Papers of the Na (...)
  • 70 Woman Legislator Pleads for Action on Age Pension, «Pittsburgh Press», 16 May 1933, p. 9.
  • 71 Mother’s Day Program at Carnegie Hall, unidentified newspaper clipping, 1933, abwc.
  • 72 «Record Vote Penna. Legislature 1933», Pennsylvania Black News, i, 1, 1933, p. 2.

30The pieces of legislation Brancato sponsored in the subsequent few months revealed a specific gender characterization, along with her deep commitment to the promotion of social welfare. For example, she supported bills providing for minimum wages, old age pensions, a forty-four-hour workweek for women and minors, restrictions on child labor, as well as a ban on evictions in case the people proceeded against were unemployed and, therefore, unable to pay their rent68. The latter was a major concern for Philadelphia’s Italian-American women, who did not hesitate to appeal to Roosevelt himself to prevent eviction69. In the effort to enact the pension provision, Brancato even urged the governor, maverick Republican Gifford Pinchot, to call a special session of the legislature70. She also persuaded the Italian Progressive Club in Braddock to turn the celebration of Mother’s Day into a rally backing laws in the interests of Pennsylvania’s mothers and children71. Passed by the House, they were tabled or voted down by the Senate where the gop still retained a majority of the seats72.

  • 73 Bucchieri, Theresa F., «The Italian-American Woman in Politics», Atlantica, xv, 3, 1933, pp. 110-13 (...)

31Yet, notwithstanding the unsuccessful outcome of her efforts, such a record strengthened the identification of Philadelphia’s Italian-American female electorate with Brancato. As Atlantica magazine remarked, «Under the inspiring guidance of Representative Anna Brancato the Italo-American woman has been encouraged to join a political party», the Democrats, to protect her children from exploitation and defend the family income by means of, respectively, child labor and minimum wage laws. Brancato also stimulated the participation of upper-middle-class female voters by establishing an organization of «professional and business young women of Italian extraction»73.

  • 74 $50 Budget Mite Elects Brancato, unidentified and undated newspaper clipping, abwc.
  • 75 Busch, Andrew W., Horses in Midstream: U.S. Midterm Elections and Their Consequences, 1894-1998, Pi (...)

32Although Brancato claimed that she had spent as few as fifty dollars for campaign purposes in 1934, she easily won a second term in the General Assembly74. What appears even more significant, however, was the further increase in female turnout although 1934 was an off year, when voter participation usually tended to undergo a decline. Taking place in the midst of the economic depression after the enactment of the legislation of the first New Deal, the 1934 midterm elections were quite atypical nationwide75. In Philadelphia, the number of eligible Italian-American voters who went to the polls continued to rise as the Democratic party succeeded in securing again a majority in their ethnic community, this time with 53.2 percent of the ballots. In particular, however, the increase in female turnout was much higher than the growth of its male counterpart. In 1934 the number of women who cast their ballots swelled by 39.3 percent over 1932 and by 72.0 percent with reference to the previous 1930 midterm races. Conversely, men’s electoral participation grew by 8.3 percent from 1932 to 1934 and by 29.5 percent between 1930 and 1934. As further evidence for the relevance of Brancato’s appeal for the mobilization of Italian-American women, the latter’s surge was even higher in her constituency. Indeed, in the 5th district of the General Assembly, female turnout rose by 43.8 percent from 1932 to 1934 and by 83.8 percent from 1930 to 1934.

33After all, during her first legislative term, Brancato herself hardly missed an opportunity to urge Italian-American women to use the ballot not only to empower themselves but also for the sake of their children. In one of her speeches, for instance, she contended that:

  • 76 Thousands Join Patriotic Fete on «Italian Day», «Berwick Enterprise», 1933, clipping, abwc.

There was a time when the place of the woman was in the house, caring for the children and doing her housework but today the woman is the equal of man with the privilege of voting. This marks a new era and women are found today in business, politics, and other activities. I am interested in the welfare of women and children and it is your duty to open the way for your children so that they may enjoy the benefits that should rightly be theirs76.

  • 77 Brancato, Anna, Interview, transcript, n.d. [but 1934], Anna Brancato Wood Papers, box 3, folder Ra (...)
  • 78 Pittsburgh Club Calendar Lists Many Interesting Events for Near Future, «Pittsburgh Press», 12 Marc (...)

34In addition, she specifically took to the air in order to emphasize maternalism so as to mobilize female voters. As Brancato stated on a radio interview, «the women of Pennsylvania […] should learn that as mothers they must interest themselves in the future of their children, women have more interest in children than men, and mother should know that laws are being constantly made, and unless they meet with a motherly instinct, they might be injurious to child welfare»77. Significantly, she did not confine her campaign among her fellow ethnics to Philadelphia, but she travelled as far as to Pittsburgh, almost on the other side of Pennsylvania, to arouse the members of the local Italian Woman’s Club, a group established for welfare purposes78.

  • 79 P.P. Reising Would Amend Labor Plans, «Daily Times», 29 January 1935, p. 1; Marriage Bill Wins, «Ph (...)
  • 80 Earle Signs Mothers’ Assistance Fund Bill, «Reading Eagle», 7 August 1936, p. 1; Keller, Richard C.(...)

35Upon returning to Harrisburg following her 1934 reelection, Brancato carried on her legislative struggle on behalf of women. For example, she proposed that the workweek be further reduced to 40 hours for female laborers and, in the effort to help naïve girls not to end up with drunkard and abusive husbands, was the author of the Hasty Marriage Act, requiring a three-day waiting period before the issuance of a marriage license79. Most remarkably, however, Brancato was the sponsor of the Mother’s Assistance Fund Bill, a provision that enabled Pennsylvania to qualify for more than one million dollars in federal funds each year to support 2,000 mothers with at least two dependent children because it brought the state assistance system into conformity with the Social Security Act. The measure was signed into laws by Democratic Governor George H. Earle iii in 1936 and became part of the so-called Pennsylvania’s Little New Deal, the legislation that mirrored the relief, welfare, and labor policies of the Roosevelt administration and secured the state matching federal grants for its implementation80.

  • 81 Miss Brancato Is Leader in Fight for Downtrodden, «Philadelphia Inquirer», 28 January 1937, p. 8; N (...)
  • 82 Hess Would Abolish Execution of Minors, «Reading Eagle», 18 March 1937, p. 7.

36In 1937, after winning a third term in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Brancato was also the author of the Pawnbroker License Act, a measure that imposed a maximum 18 percent interest rate a year on loans on silver, gold, watches, and jewelry, as well as a maximum 36 percent on all other articles in order to protect the poor and needy against loan sharks who had been charging rates as high as 72 percent during the economic depression81. In addition, she introduced a bill to protect working minors through the establishment of a state registry for employed children between 12 and 16 years of age82.

  • 83 Head Lady of the House, «Philadelphia Record», 2 January 1935, p. 7.
  • 84 Reinhold, «Anna Brancato» cit., p. 354.

37Moreover, Brancato strengthened her characterization as a female political achiever. In 1935 she became the first woman in Pennsylvania to be appointed to the position of speaker pro tempore of the House of Representatives83. She subsequently framed her gavel and placed it on display in her business office in South Philadelphia so that her constituents could see a tangible symbol of her political clout84.

38Brancato continued to promote female political mobilization in the mid 1930s. For instance, while running for a third term in 1936, she argued that:

  • 85 Brancato, Anna, maf Social Security Enablement, typescript, 11 May 1936, Anna Brancato Wood Papers, (...)

Woman’s place, they say, is in the home. Thats [sic] true, no woman would want to change that fact under any condition, but it is equally as important to understand that a mere house is not a home. A home must be comfortable, it must be happy and decent, it must be self-sustaining and there can possibly be no home unless some woman first makes it possible for her family to enjoy peace and contentment, and there can be no peace and contentment unless economic life is so balanced that every household will have ample food and clothing and the conveniences that are necessary to proper living under modern conditions. […] Every intelligent woman knows that she cannot possibly hope to establish and maintain a home unless economic conditions are right. It therefore becomes of vital importance to every woman to take an active interest in politics. Only in this way can she possibly hope to establish and maintain a home in which she might stay to care for her loved ones85.

Conclusion

  • 86 Pitkin, Hanna, The Concept of Representation, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1967.

39The Annual Reports of the Registration Commission for the City of Philadelphia no longer included a gender breakdown for voters after 1934. Therefore, it is impossible to continue the analysis of Italian-American women’s voter turnout in the following years. The data available, however, suggest that – to paraphrase Valdimer O. Key, Jr. – a «Brancato Revolution» eased the entry of Philadelphia’s Italian Americans into the participating electorate during the New Deal era. Brancato’s presence on the ticket helped mobilize the female cohort of the community so that gender issues added to ethnic claims and economic distress in the establishment of a Democratic majority in this city’s Little Italy. Politically inactive women took pride in Brancato’s candidacy and went to the polls for the first time in 1932 to support her bid for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. These dynamics of electoral behavior clearly exemplify what scholarship has defined as marginal voters’ preference for «descriptive representation», namely the tendency by members of minority groups to cast ballots for candidates who shares their respective racial, ethnic, social, and/or gender characteristics regardless of the specifics of political platforms86. Yet, in 1934, such a manifestation of gender solidarity turned into a vote for mandate for legislation protecting women and children and enhancing the welfare state in Pennsylvania.

  • 87 See, e.g., Merithew, Caroline Waldron, «Anarchist Motherhood: Toward the Making of a Revolutionary (...)

40In the last few years historiography has rejected the coeval views and the conclusion of previous scholarship that constructed Italian immigrant women as downtrodden people whom abusive men and authoritarian institutions oppressed in the adoptive land in a partial replica of what female newcomers had already endured in the native country. Such studies, however, have ended up highlighting in particular the dynamics of informal resistance, agency, and collective action to achieve social justice at the turn of the twentieth century and in the interwar years. Against this backdrop, scholars have focused on women’s political militancy primarily in other-than-institutional spheres and have largely overlooked electoral behavior as a means to promote reforms and changes in the adoptive society. Overall research has almost assumed that protest, claims, and assertiveness hardly entered the voting booths or had recourse to the ballot box87.

  • 88 Biagi, Ernest L., The Italians in Philadelphia, New York, Carlton Press, 1967, pp. 77-88; Grifo, Ri (...)

41Nonetheless the significant increase in turnout among women in Philadelphia’s Little Italy on the occasions of Brancato’s candidacies for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in the first half of the 1930s shows that the female cohort of the Italian-American community did not refrain from exploiting the strength of the vote in order to support legislative measures providing for children, women, and the underprivileged as a whole. It can be easily argued that Brancato’s experience was quite exceptional within the context of Italian Americans’ marginalization and underrepresentation in elective offices in the first half of the 1930s not only in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania but also in the United States as a whole88.

42This awareness, however, does not mean that Philadelphian women of Italian descent continued to rule out the resort to the ballot and failed to seize the opportunity of Brancato’s bids for the General Assembly to pursue their own aims. As a result, Brancato made a significant contribution to spurring the electoral mobilization of Italian-American women in Philadelphia and to promoting their incorporation into the political process of the adoptive country.

Notes

1 Bueker, Catherine Simpson, «Political Incorporation Among Immigrants from Ten Areas of Origin: The Persistence of Source Country Effects», International Migration Review, xxxix, 1, 2005, pp. 103-40; Ramakrishnan, S. Karthick, Democracy in Immigrant America: Changing Demographics and Political Participation, Stanford, ca, Stanford University Press, 2005; Hochschild, Jennifer and Mollenkopf, John H. (eds.), Bringing Outsiders In: Transatlantic Perspectives on Immigrant Political Incorporation, Ithaca, ny, Cornell University Press, 2009; Andersen, Kristi, New Immigrant Communities: Finding a Place in Local Politics, Boulder, co, Rienner, 2010; Hochschild, Jennifer et Al. (eds.), Outsiders No More?: Models of Immigrant Political Incorporation, New York, Oxford University Press, 2013; de Graauw, Els, «Immigrants and Political Incorporation in the United States», in Barkan, Elliott Robert (ed.), Immigrants in American History: Arrival, Adaptation, and Integration, Santa Barbara, ca, abc-clio, 2013, pp. 1875-92.

2 Degler, Carl N., «American Political Parties and the Rise of the City: An Interpretation», Journal of American History, li, 1, 1964, pp. 41-59, pp. 55-57; Andersen, Kristi, The Creation of a Democratic Majority, 1928-1936, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1979; Petrocik, John R., Party Coalitions: Realignment and the Decline of the New Deal Party System, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1981, pp. 36-42, 53-57; Kleppner, Paul, Who Voted? The Dynamics of Party Turnout, 1870-1980, New York, Praeger, 1982, pp. 83-111.

3 Allswang, John M., A House for All Peoples: Ethnic Politics in Chicago, 1890-1936, Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, 1971; Gamm, Gerald H., The Making of New Deal Democrats: Voting Behavior and Realignment in Boston, 1920-1940, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1989; Cohen, Lizabeth, Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939, New York, Cambridge University Press, 1990, pp. 256-58; Key, Valdimer O., Jr., «A Theory of Critical Elections», Journal of Politics, xvii, 1, 1955, pp. 3-18.

4 Rice, Stuart D. and Willey, Malcolm M., «American Women’s Ineffective Use of the Vote», Current History, xx, 4, 1924, pp. 641-47; Breckinridge, Sophonisba P., Women in the Twentieth Century: A Study of Their Political, Social, and Economic Activities, New York, McGraw-Hill, 1933, pp. 245-56; Chafe, William H., The American Woman: Her Changing Social, Economic, and Political Roles, 1920-1970, New York, Oxford University Press, 1972, p. 30; Andersen, The Creation of a Democratic Majority cit., p. 40; Mileur, Jerome M., «The “Boss”: Franklin Roosevelt, the Democratic Party, and the Reconstruction of American Politics», in Milkis, Sidney M. and Mileur, Jerome M. (eds.), The New Deal and the Triumph of Liberalism, Amherst, University of Massachusetts Press, 2002, pp. 113-15. Both percentages in the text are from Burnham, Walter Dean, «The Turnout Problem», in Reichley, A. James (ed.), Elections American Style, Washington, dc, Brookings Institution, 1987, pp. 97-133, p. 113. For a partially dissenting view, see Kleppner, Paul, «Were Women to Blame? Female Suffrage and Voter Turnout», Journal of Interdisciplinary History, xii, 4, 1982, pp. 621-43.

5 U.S. Bureau of the Census, Fifteenth Census of the United States: 1930, Population, Washington, dc, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932.

6 Treadway, Jack, Elections in Pennsylvania: A Century of Partisan Conflict in the Keystone State, University Park, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005, p. 100.

7 Greenberg, Irwin F., «Philadelphia Democrats Get a New Deal: The Election of 1933», Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, xcii, 2, 1973, pp. 210-32; Bronner, Edwin B., «The New Deal Comes to Pennsylvania: The Gubernatorial Election of 1934», Pennsylvania History, xxvii, 1, 1960, pp. 44-68.

8 Registration Commission of Philadelphia, Annual Reports of the Registration Commission for the City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Dunlap Printing Company, 1926-34.

9 For Vare and his political machine, see Salter, John T., The People’s Choice. Philadelphia’s William S. Vare, New York, Exposition Press, 1971; Kurtzman, David H., Methods of Controlling Votes in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1935.

10 Wolfinger, Raymond, Philadelphia Divided: Race and Politics in the City of Brotherly Love, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2007, p. 17; Varbero, Richard A., Urbanization and Acculturation: Philadelphia’s South Italians, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Temple University, 1975, p. 292.

11 Vare, William S., My Forty Years in Politics, Philadelphia, Roland Swain, 1933, pp. 29-30.

12 No ethnic breakdown is available for voting statistics concerning Philadelphia. Samples of the Italian-American electorate have been made assuming that the election results of precincts in which at least 80 percent of the registered voters were of Italian ancestry are representative of the vote of their community. The ethnic concentration of precincts has been identified through a name check conducted on the incomplete collections of the Street Lists of Voters (1928, 1929, 1934) in the Papers of the Registration Commission, Philadelphia City Archives. Census tract data and information from Philadelphia Board of Public Education, Annual Reports, Philadelphia, Dunlap Printing Company, 1924-38, have supplemented the name check for the missing years of the Street Lists of Voters. The row votes by precincts have been obtained from The Pennsylvania State Manual, Harrisburg, pa, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1927 and The Pennsylvania Manual, Harrisburg, pa, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1929-35. These votes have been converted into the percentages that appear in the text.

13 Merriam, Charles E. and Gosnell, Harold F., Non-Voting: Causes and Methods of Control, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1924, pp. 110-11.

14 Gamm, The Making of New Deal Democrats cit., p. 82.

15 LaGumina, Salvatore J., «American Political Process and Italian Participation in New York State», in Tomasi, Silvano M. (ed.), Perspectives in Italian Immigration and Ethnicity, New York, Center for Migration Studies, 1977, pp. 85-102, p. 89.

16 Mormino, Gary Ross, Immigrants on the Hill: Italian Americans in St. Louis, 1882-1982, Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1986, p. 174.

17 Stella, Antonio, Some Aspects of Italian Immigration to the United States, New York, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1924, p. 34.

18 Parrillo, Vincent N., Diversity in America, Thousand Oaks, ca, Pine Forge Press, 2005, pp. 106-8.

19 Cecchi, Emilio, Il voto alle donne, «Il Progresso Italo-Americano», 5 August 1923, p. 2-S.

20 «Mrs. Levis Organizza Club Femminili», Gazzetta del Massachusetts, 28 August 1920, p. 7.

21 «The Italian Women: Their Part in the Making of a Greater Italy», Il Carroccio, xix, 3, 1924, pp. 296-99, p. 298.

22 De Bellis, Benedict, «Woman Suffrage Has Come», Gazzetta del Massachusetts, 4 September 1920, p. 3.

23 Deschamps, Bénédicte, De la presse «coloniale» à la presse italo-américaine: Le percours de six périodiques italiens aux États-Unis (1910-1935), unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Université Paris vii, 1995.

24 Bencivenni, Marcella, Italian Immigrant Radical Culture: The Idealism of the Sovversivi in the United States, 1890-1940, New York, New York University Press, 2011, pp. 85-94. See also Deschamps, Bénédicte, «The Italian American Press and the “Woman Question”, 1915-1930», in Aste, Mario, Postman, Sheryl Lynn, and Pierson, Michael (eds.), Greece and Italy: Ancient Roots & New Beginnings, New York, American Italian Historical Association, 2005, pp. 234-44, pp. 238-40.

25 Vezzosi, Elisabetta, Il socialismo indifferente: Immigrati italiani e Socialist Party negli Stati Uniti del primo Novecento, Rome, Edizioni Lavoro, 1991, p. 130.

26 Buhle, Mary Jo, Women and American Socialism, 1870-1920, Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1981, pp. 298-99.

27 Vezzosi, Elisabetta, «Italian Immigrant Women: In Search of a Female Identity in Turn-of-the-Century America», RSA: Rivista di Studi Anglo-Americani, iii, 4-5, 1984-85, pp. 509-31, p. 529. For Forzato Spezia’s biographical profile, see Bencivenni, Italian Immigrant Radical Culture cit., pp. 144-46.

28 Yans-McLaughlin, Virginia, Family and Community: Italian Immigrants in Buffalo, 1880-1930, Ithaca, ny, Cornell University Press, 1977, pp. 229-31, 239, 245 (quote p. 245).

29 Hodge, Jessica, Frank Sinatra, North Dighton, ma, J.G. Press, 1994, p. 7; Guglielmo, Jennifer, Living the Revolution: Italian Women’s Resistance and Radicalism in New York City, 1880-1945, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2010, pp. 110-13.

30 Lovatelli, James, «Women of Foreign Birth – Vote!», Atlantica, xv, 2, 1933, pp. 64-65, p. 64.

31 Ciotti, Hector J., «Letter to the Editor», Atlantica, xv, 3, 1933, p. 131.

32 The experience of Rosaria Saccomando in Buffalo, New York State, is reported by Garroni, Maria Susanna, «Immigrati e cittadini: L’essere “americani” degli italoamericani tra Otto e Novecento», Contemporanea, v, 1, 2002, pp. 25-58, p. 56.

33 Garroni, Maria Susanna and Vezzosi, Elisabetta, «Italiane migranti», in Corti, Paola and Sanfilippo, Matteo (eds.), Storia d’Italia: Annali 24: Migrazioni, Turin, Einaudi, 2009, pp. 449-65, p. 464.

34 Varbero, Richard A., «The Politics of Ethnicity: Philadelphia’s Italians in the 1920’s», in Cordasco, Francesco (ed.), Studies in Italian-American Social History: Essays in Honor of Edward Covello, Totowa, nj, Rowman and Littlefield, 1975, pp. 164-81, p. 173.

35 «Signorinas» Shy at Little Italy Polls, «Evening Bulletin», 3 September 1920, p. 25.

36 Eugene V. Alessandroni, circular letter to the members of the Order Sons of Italy in America, Philadelphia, 30 October 1926, Giovanni M. Di Silvestro Papers, box 1, folder 22, Immigration History Research Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, mn. For the Order Sons of Italy in America, see Biagi, Ernest L., The Purple Aster: A History of the Sons of Italy in America, n.p., Veritas press, 1961; Guglielmo, Jennifer M. and Andreozzi, John, «The Order Sons of Italy in America: Historical Summary», in Id. (eds.), Guide to the Records of the Order Sons of Italy in America, Minneapolis, Immigration History Research Center, 2004, pp. xix-xxx.

37 Young Democrats Name Committees, unidentified newspaper clipping, Anne Brancato Wood Collection, Newspaper Scrapbook, Record Group 7, reel 6069, Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, pa (hereafter abwc). For South Philadelphia, see Dubin, Murray, South Philadelphia: Mummers, Memoirs, and the Melrose Diner, Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1996, pp. 100-22; Di Giacomo, Donna J., Italians of Philadelphia, Charleston, sc, Arcadia, 2007, p. 11; Saverino, Joan, «Mapping Memories in Stone: Italians and the Transformation of a Philadelphia Landscape», in Takenaka, Ayumi and Johnson Osirim, Mary (eds.), Global Philadelphia: Immigrant Communities Old and New, Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 2010, pp. 52-76, pp. 56-58.

38 Handmaiden of Vareville Democracy Amazed to Find Herself Legislator, «Philadelphia Inquirer», 10 November 1932, p. 2.

39 Jeansonne, Glean, Herbert Hoover: Fighting Quaker, 1928-1933, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, p. 30; Hoover Won Anna Brancato to the Democratic Party, unidentified newspaper clipping, 16 October 1932, abwc.

40 Rymph, Catherine E., Republican Women: Feminism and Conservatism from Suffrage through the Rise of the New Right, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2006, pp. 48-50.

41 Andersen, The Creation of a Democratic Majority cit., p. 9; Lubell, Samuel, The Future of American Politics, New York, Harper and Brothers, 1952, p. 40; Burner, David, The Politics of Provincialism: The Democratic Party in Transition, 1918-1932, New York, Knopf, 1967, p. 229.

42 «Unemployment Survey of Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.», Monthly Labor Review, xxxii, 3, 1931, pp. 48-55, p. 54.

43 The Pennsylvania Manual cit., 1929, pp. 524, 1065.

44 Woman Legislator to Be Speaker on «Italian Day», «Berwick Enterprise», 1933, newspaper clipping, abwc (to which the quote refers); The Pennsylvania Manual cit., 1933, p. 276.

45 Thousands Cheer Smith in Scores of City Rallies, «Philadelphia Record», undated clipping, abwc.

46 Clark, Dennis, The Irish in Philadelphia: Ten Generations of Urban Experience, Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1973, p. 117.

47 Salter, John T., Boss Rule: Portraits in City Politics, New York, McGraw-Hill, 1935, p. 203.

48 Reinhold, Frances L., «Anna Brancato: State Representative», in Salter, John T. (ed.), The American Politician, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1938, pp. 348-58, pp. 348, 351 (quote p. 348).

49 Farmerie, Samuel A., «Pennsylvania Legislators, 1901-1963», Pennsylvania History, xxxiv, 1, 1967, pp. 31-43, p. 40; Deber, Raisa B., «“The Fault, Dear Brutus”: Women as Congressional Candidates in Pennsylvania», Journal of Politics, xliv, 2, 1982, pp. 463-79, pp. 474-78.

50 Hacker, Kathy, A Woman Who Dared to Buck the System, «Evening Bulletin», 8 November 1979, p. 21.

51 Phila. Women’s Democratic Club Plans Outing, unidentified newspaper clipping, 1932, abwc.

52 Woman Democrat Tells of Victory, unidentified and undated newspaper clipping, abwc.

53 New Woman Legislator to Fight for More Playgrounds – and Beer, «South Philadelphian», 12 November 1932, pp. 1-2; «Democratic Platform», 1932, in Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr. and Israel, Fred L. (eds.), History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-1968, New York, Chelsea, 1985, pp. 2741-44, p. 2743.

54 Success Thrills Girl Legislator, «Evening Bulletin», 10 November 1932, p. 2; Harrison, Dorothy Ann, Rival Suitors Help Woman to Win Seat in Legislature, «Philadelphia Record», 10 November 1932, pp. 1-2; Rival Suitors Help to Elect South Phila. Girl to Assembly, «Philadelphia Daily News», 10 November 1932, p. 3; Owes Her Election to Efforts of Two «Boy Friends», «Reading Eagle», 12 November 1932, p. 6; Love Election, «Pittsburgh Press», 12 November 1933, p. 12; Reinhold, «Anna Brancato» cit., pp. 349-52.

55 In conversazione con la signorina Anna M. Brancato, «Il Progresso Italo-Americano», undated clipping, abwc.

56 Smull’s Legislative Hand Book and Manual of the State of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, pa, J.L.L. Kuhn, 1905-23; The Pennsylvania State Manual cit., 1925-27; The Pennsylvania Manual cit., 1929-31.

57 Dopo la vittoria, «La Libera Parola», 12 November 1932, p. 3; «The Italians in the United States», Atlantica, xiv, 3, 1932, pp. 129-31, p. 130.

58 Brancato, Anna, Background, typescript, n.d., Anne Brancato Wood Papers, Manuscript Group 2701, box 3, folder Speeches, Pennsylvania State Archives.

59 Calls on Women to Push Own Code, unidentified and undated newspaper clipping, abwc.

60 Beirne v. Continental-Equitable Title & Trust Co., 307 Pa. 570, 161 Atl. 721 (1932).

61 Brancato, Anna, Modern Portia Aids Widows, «Evening Public Ledger», 11 February 1933, abwc.

62 Anna Brancato esordisce nell’agone politico, «L’Opinione», 16 February 1933, p. 4.

63 Shuns «Woman» Label in House, unidentified newspaper clipping, 1932, abwc.

64 Woman Solon Asks for No Favors, «Pittsburgh Press», 18 January 1933, p. 1.

65 Brancato, Anna, Not until 1920, typescript, n.d., Anne Brancato Wood Papers, box 3, folder Speeches, Pennsylvania State Archives.

66 Miss Brancato Gives Peep Behind Legislative Scenes, unidentified newspaper clippings, 25 May 1933, abwc.

67 Brancato, Anna, untitled and undated typescript, Anne Brancato Wood Papers, box 3, folder Notes (handwritten), Pennsylvania State Archives.

68 Anna in Legislature-Land, «Philadelphia Record», 29 May 1933, p. 11.

69 See, e.g., Lena Giannini to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Philadelphia, 10 November 1932, Papers of the National Democratic Committee, box 682, folder G (cont.), Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, ny.

70 Woman Legislator Pleads for Action on Age Pension, «Pittsburgh Press», 16 May 1933, p. 9.

71 Mother’s Day Program at Carnegie Hall, unidentified newspaper clipping, 1933, abwc.

72 «Record Vote Penna. Legislature 1933», Pennsylvania Black News, i, 1, 1933, p. 2.

73 Bucchieri, Theresa F., «The Italian-American Woman in Politics», Atlantica, xv, 3, 1933, pp. 110-13, p. 110.

74 $50 Budget Mite Elects Brancato, unidentified and undated newspaper clipping, abwc.

75 Busch, Andrew W., Horses in Midstream: U.S. Midterm Elections and Their Consequences, 1894-1998, Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999, pp. 138-45.

76 Thousands Join Patriotic Fete on «Italian Day», «Berwick Enterprise», 1933, clipping, abwc.

77 Brancato, Anna, Interview, transcript, n.d. [but 1934], Anna Brancato Wood Papers, box 3, folder Radio Interviews, Pennsylvania State Archives.

78 Pittsburgh Club Calendar Lists Many Interesting Events for Near Future, «Pittsburgh Press», 12 March 1933, p. 23.

79 P.P. Reising Would Amend Labor Plans, «Daily Times», 29 January 1935, p. 1; Marriage Bill Wins, «Philadelphia Inquirer», 30 April 1935, p. 1; Earle Signs New Bill on Marriage, «Pittsburgh Post», 9 May 1935, p. 1.

80 Earle Signs Mothers’ Assistance Fund Bill, «Reading Eagle», 7 August 1936, p. 1; Keller, Richard C., Pennsylvania’s Little New Deal, New York, Garland, 1982, pp. 183-289.

81 Miss Brancato Is Leader in Fight for Downtrodden, «Philadelphia Inquirer», 28 January 1937, p. 8; New Pawnshop Law an Inquirer Victory in Battle for Poor, ivi, 1 April 1937, p. 10; Three Who Helped Curb Pawnbrokers, ivi, 7 April 1937, p. 1.

82 Hess Would Abolish Execution of Minors, «Reading Eagle», 18 March 1937, p. 7.

83 Head Lady of the House, «Philadelphia Record», 2 January 1935, p. 7.

84 Reinhold, «Anna Brancato» cit., p. 354.

85 Brancato, Anna, maf Social Security Enablement, typescript, 11 May 1936, Anna Brancato Wood Papers, box 1, folder Newspaper articles + clippings, 1933-1979, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

86 Pitkin, Hanna, The Concept of Representation, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1967.

87 See, e.g., Merithew, Caroline Waldron, «Anarchist Motherhood: Toward the Making of a Revolutionary Proletariat in Illinois Coal Towns», in Gabaccia, Donna R. and Iacovetta, Franca (eds.), Women, Gender, and Transnational Lives: Italian Workers of the World, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2002, pp. 217-46; Iacovetta, Franca and Ventresca, Robert, «Virgilia d’Andrea: The Politics of Protest and the Poetry of Exile», ivi, pp. 299-326; Guglielmo, Living the Revolution cit.; Bencivenni, Marcella, «Les formes d’expression des immigrées italiennes d’extrême gauche aux États-Unis, 1890-1930», in Rygiel, Philippe (ed.), Politique et administration du genre en migration: Mondes atlantiques, xixe-xxe siècles, Paris, Publibook, 2011, pp. 189-206; Merithew, Caroline Waldron, «Domesticating the Diaspora: Remembering the Life of Katie DeRorre», in Baldassar, Loretta and Gabaccia, Donna R. (eds.), Intimacy and Italian Migration: Gender and Migration Lives in a Mobile World, New York, Fordham University Press, 2011, pp. 69-82.

88 Biagi, Ernest L., The Italians in Philadelphia, New York, Carlton Press, 1967, pp. 77-88; Grifo, Richard D. and Noto, Anthony F., Italian Presence in Pennsylvania, University Park, pa, Pennsylvania Historical Association, 1990, pp. 18-23; LaGumina, Salvatore J., «Politics», in LaGumina, Salvatore J. et Al. (eds.), The Italian American Experience: An Encyclopedia, New York, Garland, 2000, pp. 480-86.

Auteur

Insegna Storia degli Stati Uniti d’America all’Università di Padova. Ha curato, con Dennis Barone, Small Towns, Big Cities: The Urban Experience of Italian Americans, New York, American Italian Historical Association, 2010.