In this in-person webinar, Dr. Victoria Calabrese will discuss the Italian women who remained behind during the great wave of emigration. Between 1876 and 1914, millions emigrated from the newly formed Italian state. About 80 percent of those migrants were men, many of whom left wives and children behind. Her work explores the various changes and challenges women experienced when their husbands emigrated from Basilicata, one of the least examined regions of Italy, but one with a high percentage of emigration.
In a period where married women had few legal rights, Calabrese uses archival sources, such as passport requests and petitions to the mayor’s office, to argue that women did not simply wait for their husbands to return, but took charge of their lives and families. Despite their legal limitations, they forged a new relationship with the state, handled remittances, managed their family income, learned to read and write, and acted as de facto heads of household.