By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Oct 04, 2006 at 7:45 AM
Furman University associate history professor Diane C. Vecchio is no stranger to Milwaukee or its Italian American community. During her years here she conducted research and also did interviews for an Italian American oral history project with UWM professor Larry Baldassaro. (Those interviews can be read in UWM’s Golda Meir Library’s Special Collections.)

Even since she left Brew City, Vecchio has continued her research on the Third Ward Italian community and contributed a chapter called "Gender, Domestic Values and Italian Working Women in Milwaukee: Immigrant Businesswomen and Midwives" to the 2002 book, “Women, Gender, and Transnational Lives: Italian Workers of the World.”

Vecchio’s latest book is based on the same research. “Merchants, Midwives, and Laboring Women: Italian Migrants in Urban America,” published by the University of Illinois Press, compares the opportunities available to and the work done by Italian immigrant women in Endicott, N.Y. and Milwaukee.

She chose the two in part because they offer contrasting images. In upstate New York, immigrant women were hired en masse by the Endicott Johnson shoe factory and so many Italian women were able to find work outside the home.

In Milwaukee, however, heavy manufacturing reigned and it was work considered more adapted to men.

“Immigrant women created income-earning opportunities to help their families escape poverty and achieve familial goals,” she writes, “but in this Midwestern city Italian women’s work experiences were dramatically different from those of Italian women in Endicott. … Few Italian women worked in factories.”

So Italian women here ran grocery stores, took boarders into their homes and found other sources of income. Women employed outside the home worked in small candy factories and as dressmakers.

Vecchio’s years of research has resulted in an engaging work of history that focuses on immigrant women and their work. While the topic isn’t a new one, Vecchio adds to the literature and at the same breaks new ground by investigating and reporting on women’s work among Milwaukee’s under-studied Italian immigrant community.

This reader’s only regret is that Vecchio didn’t examine the experiences of immigrant women in Bay View -- the second largest Italian community in the city and one that was somewhat culturally divergent -- and compare them with the situation in the Third Ward.
Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.