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Forgotten Stories of Chicago's Italian Women Detailed in New Book

By Chloe Riley | November 5, 2013 7:53am
 The book “Italian Women in Chicago” makes its debut Tuesday.
Italian Women Chicago
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LITTLE ITALY — Italian women — and their impact on more than 100 years of Chicago history — are the subject of a new book written and researched largely by Chicago residents.

In the introduction to “Italian Women in Chicago,” editor Dominic Candeloro states the book has been compiled in an attempt to “write” the wrongs of history with regards to Italian women’s contributions towards the city’s growth.

Candeloro and several others began research for the book after noticing the lack of research focused specifically on Italian women in Chicago.

“It looks at all kinds of women who contributed to the making of Chicago industry,” said Gloria Nardini, another of the book’s editors. “We forgot in the first place because history has been written largely by men.”

The book’s first half recounts researched and oral histories, while the second half consists of short fictional stories and poetry by modern authors.   

There’s the forgotten “Queen of Little Italy,” Anna Carlo Blasi, born Luiga Anna Chiarello, who migrated to Chicago in 1887. Chiarello, a popular midwife, used her political connections to campaign for better sanitation in an attempt to fight the cholera that was killing many of the newborns she delivered.

When she died of a ruptured gall bladder on Jan. 19, 1920, her funeral was one of the largest the city had known at that time, according to the book.

The book also looks at the role women played in business; for many, it was a behind-the-scenes role that was not publicly acknowledged.

Like the “Angel of Halsted Street,” Serafina Ferrara, who the book identifies as the driving force behind the original Ferrara Pastry Shop on Taylor Street, established in 1908. Husband Salvatore would go on to establish the Ferrara Candy Business, which still produces the iconic Lemonhead candies today.

Nardini points to her own mother, who managed Nardini’s family’s finances as a housewife.

“And today we’d call her a financial advisor that works from home. And like her, I’m sure there are many, many women who didn’t take the credit for the work they did.”

The official book presentation will take place from 9:30-11 a.m. Tuesday at Club Lago restaurant, 331 W. Superior St. Espresso, cappuccino and Italian pastries will be served, and the $25 book will be available for $20. 

For those who can’t make the official presentation, the book is available online at www.casaitaliachicago.org