On the Inside Looking Out: My America, a Voice from Italian Harlem’s Past…

Italian Harlem

Asked if she liked America, an Italian homeworker replied in 1911: “Not much, not much. In my country, people cook out-of doors, do the wash out-of-doors, tailor out-of-doors, make macaroni out-of-doors. And my people laugh, laugh all the time. In America, is “sopra, sopra!” [up, up, with a gesture of going upstairs]. Many people, one house; work, work all the time. Good money but no good air.” 

Source: Elizabeth C. Watson, “Home Work in the Tenements,” Survey, 25 (1910), 772

In hindsight, perhaps, the above statement could have been spoken by the hard-working Italian woman portrayed in this iconic, social journalistic photo. Her name was Mary Mauro. Mary lived in Italian East Harlem, in a 5 story “old-law” walk-up tenement, along with her family in 1911. By some “synchronistic serendipity,” Mary was one of the “homeworkers” chosen by sociologist and photographer, Lewis Wickes Hine, to be portrayed in his photographic…

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One Comment on “On the Inside Looking Out: My America, a Voice from Italian Harlem’s Past…”

  1. Ed FIORELLA says:

    Thanks for the info will take time to go through all topics. Just wanted to make contact went to St. Ann”s on a 110th st next to the chicken slaughter house. My grandparents lived at 311 E. 111th st. next to the boys club across from the horse stable. My father Pasquale mother Mary brothers Sal for Salvatore- Pat for Pasquale me Edward and kid brother Joe / Many relatives on 111th between 2nd and 3rd Ave.Also wenat to Benjamin Franklin class of 1953.

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