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American Gender




L’Italia, March 25, 1905.


The Board of Education, of which Mr. Bodine is the head, is going ahead in its fight against the marriage of school‑age girls.

The latest case of this kind that has come to light is the proposed marriage of fourteen‑year‑old Maria Cordilli with Antonio Calerone 35 years of age.  It seems incredible that parents would allow this but such parents exist nevertheless.

Child Brides article scan

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L'Italia, May22, 1909.


A new society has been formed, under the name of Benefit Society for the Italian Women. The purpose of this society is to assure the widow and her children a certain measure of security upon the death of her husband.  This is a mutual benefit society and is entirely supported by its members

His Excellency, Mayor Des Planches, the Italian Ambassador to the United States, on his last visit to Chicago, encouraged the Italian women of our colony to organize such an institution and to His Excellency goes much of the credit.

We urge every Italian woman to join this society and assure herself a safe future.

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Denni Hlasatel Mar. 12, 1913.


The period of school vacations makes one most keenly aware of the advantages of well‑located and properly equipped children’s playgrounds. A mother who lives in the vicinity of such grounds can without worry let her children leave the house, knowing where they are going and being sure that  they will spend their time in an agreeable and healthful way.

There are no such provisions for the children of the two Bohemian district formerly known as "Lawndale" and "Crawford", which now form a part of Bohemian "California". No public school there has a playground, and there is not even a small park in that neighborhood. The children either have to take a long walk to Douglas Park, stay on the streets, or spend their time near the Drainage Canal. Everybody will admit that there is very little safety--either for the children's bodies or for their morals‑‑on the streets or at the Canal.

Both taxpayers' and improvement associations have dealt with this question. Various promises have been made to meet this need, but so far nothing has been done in that direction. Spring is around the corner, and in about three months vacations will be here. If anything is to be accomplished by then, it will be necessary to present this matter before the respective authorities, that is the City Council and the Board of Education immediately. At the new Gary School on Lawndale Avenue there is ample vacant space for a playground.  Its establishment would be a real blessing for children living within a radius of one mile of the school. Just let us make it known to the proper authorities that such a playground is wanted, that we demand it in full seriousness. We shall get it, and get it in time for our children to enjoy during their next vacation. It will be a source of pleasure and healthful fun for them; and for our parents it will be an assurance that their children are spending their free time without endangering lives and morals, a danger which they are exposed to in the streets and vacant lots.

Need for Playgrounds article scan

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Svenska Tribunen-Nyheter, Jan. 26, 1921.


A subscriber from Minnesota has asked us to call to the attention of all our women readers the fact that thirty‑nine state legislatures have now granted pensions to single mothers who have young children to provide for.  We are glad to comply with the requests even though this subject has repeatedly been discussed on our pages.

Our correspondent points out that in many states the pension is being paid until the children reach the age of sixteen or seventeen.  The state of Minnesota grants fifteen dollars per month for the oldest child and ten dollars for the younger ones.

She goes on to say that many Swedish‑American mothers, being rather bashful and also proud, fail to apply for this pension, and would rather suffer privation than ask for help. We want to assure such mothers that the pension does not represent charity at all.  It is the right of the children, determined by law, and no mother in needy circumstances should deprive them of this privilege.  The purpose of the pension is to take care of children who have no father to support them, and enable their mother to give them as good an upbringing as possible in their own home; thus keeping  the family together instead of allowing it to become scattered among strangers.

Mothers who are eligible for this pension owe it both to themselves and to their children to apply for it.  It certainly is no disgrace for them to secure decent living conditions and the proper upbringing of their children in this manner.

This aid given by the state often saves the children from having to go to an orphanage some othercharitable institution.  Such places, no matter how well they are run, can never take, can never take the place of a family home, be it ever so humble.

If, as our friend from Minnesota states, many eligible Swedish‑American mothers neglect their duty by failing to apply for the pension, we can only say that it is a most deplorable situation. They are actually doing an injustice to themselves, to their children, and even to society as a whole. It is in the interest of the latter that the youngest generation be well taken care of, for upon it rest our hopes for the future of the race.

Question and Activity

Lesson: Gender, Citizenship & Generational Identities

Goal: To provide students with an understanding of gender identity and how it is affected by pressures of popular culture, assimilation and citizenship.

Objective(s): Students will be able to identify how assimilation affected traditional gender roles within immigrant communities, and apply this understanding to forces at work within their own communities and contemporary popular culture.


  1. Have students arranged into groups of three or four and define the concepts of “citizenship” and “gender.”
  2. Compare student definitions as a class.  Arrive at a consensus.
  3. Use a Venn diagram to visually describe defining aspects of female “gender” and “citizenship.”  Have students determine the common characteristics of both to create a predicted criteria for “female citizenship”
  4. Distribute selections (one per group – perhaps from different ethnic newspapers).  Have students identify the issues of “gender” and “citizenship” as represented in their respective articles.
  5. Have students plot generational concerns of gender and citizenship on graphic organizer, while citing specific quotes from the articles as evidence for their conclusions.
  6. Rearrange groups to include one member from each ethnic newspaper represented.  Have students compare results across ethnicities.
  7. Have students choose/assign students a contemporary ethnic group (perhaps their own or another from their community) and see if they can identify a similar pattern concerning changes in gender & citizenship across generations.
  8. Have students interview at least two (maybe three) members of a local immigrant community.  Each member must represent a different generation.  Have students identify traditional/old world gender identities, new identity concerns and visions of gender identity for future generations based on information gathered from interviews.  Have students compare similarities as a class, and draw conclusions based on class findings.  Create a graph charting the change in female gender and citizenship identities (if any) over the 20th century.

Asessment/Evaluation: Students should be evaluated based on how well they compare issues of gender and citizenship in the ethnic press to the same issues found in their communities.  Students will also be assessed on how well they master procedures of collecting, analyzing and representing data based on their findings.

“Becoming Americans in Chicago Reader” – Introduction

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