In 1930, a small group of Italian American immigrants in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania split from the Order Sons of Italy to form a new organization – the Order Italian Sons and Daughters of America. Of course, today, one might believe that the inclusion and recognition of women in the larger Italian American community is, without argument, not only justified but utterly necessary; however, our ancestors’ willingness to include females was, at the time, a progressive philosophy and approach (and one that has certainly made an impact within our organization: at this very moment, all of our National District Vice Presidents are women, two of our four National Officers are women, and almost half of our Board of Directors are – you guessed it – women).
And so, in commemoration of this groundbreaking shift our founding members made to acknowledge and honor the important role of women within their community of 1930, I would like to take a moment to shine a light on the role Italian American women play in our community today, eighty-five years later.
Throughout history, females have been an integral factor in the development and life of the Italian culture. Oftentimes the heartbeat of our families, we tend to be the torch-bearers that pass the flame of our heritage from one generation to the next, keeping the traditions and values of our culture alive.
We learn and teach the recipes, remember the family history (all the names and towns and dates and whose second cousin’s cousin married whom), and we tell those stories. We make sure little ones know respect and that older ones receive it. We insist on family dinners. We drag everyone to Church, where we say countless prayers. Then the praying continues at home. And all week long, too. We make an effort to keep all the generations in the daily mix. And we make certain everyone visits the homeland at least once in their lifetime.
But in addition to our place in the home and in the family, we have created another place: in business, the arts, science and medicine, entrepreneurship, philanthropy and beyond. We have found a way to extend our education, build our careers, and contribute to society as a whole, all while still connecting to our families and keeping our families connected – whether they be our parents and siblings or our own children should we have them.
I’ve personally struggled with this balance of maintaining my place in the home while also building a second place in society; however, I have always been grateful for the opportunity to play such a vital part in each. And why might I deem my small space in this world so important? Because the Italian American traditions I have been blessed with and the values I have been taught give me much to offer my family – and something to offer others, too.
I admire every woman who dares to excel in any aspect of her life – whether it’s one, two or ten. Therefore, I am happy to introduce a new segment on our website devoted to unique women who I feel have much to give us.
We will share the stories of women who bear the torch within their home and women who extend that flame to places beyond, all lending their gifts and talents from a core that is admirably shaped by their heritage. After all, thus is the new role Italian Daughters of America play today.
Read our first feature on Maria Cuomo Cole.
Connect with the women of Italian America and share the story of an amazing woman you know.
If you would like to suggest a woman to be featured on this website, email us.