Italian Mothers & Grandmothers – Treasures of Italy

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May 8, 2023

Joanne Natale Spigonardo

For those of you who have been blessed to have an Italian Mother and an Italian Grandmother, I hope these words you are reading will sound familiar and meaningful. Of course, as in all individuals, everyone’s experience is unique. I’m paying tribute to my Grandmother, Teresa. She was the strongest woman I have ever met, with my Mother, Raffaela, being a close second.

Both Teresa and Raffaela had the stamina of an army and the hearts of legions. They had to have these qualities in order to survive the life that they were handed. I tell a fictionalized version of their story, in my book White Widow. This book was inspired by the countless stories my Grandmother and Mother told me. In addition, my Mother began to write some of these stories in a journal a few years before her death.

The first time, I heard the words White Widow, was in a book I read, called Unto the Sons by Jerre Mangione and Gaetano Talese. This book speaks about Italian immigration during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I read this book decades ago but it really resonated with me because I realized that my Grandmother Teresa was a White Widow.

White Widows were women that were left behind in Italy while their husbands went to the US to work. The husbands would send money back to the family in Italy to help support them. Often these women would never see their husbands again. While the monetary support was helpful, it didn’t begin to cover what was needed. It certainly didn’t cover the herculean task of raising a family in war-ravaged and impoverished villages.

In the process of writing my book, I was torn about my devotion and respect for my Grandfather, for giving me the opportunity to immigrate to America, and the resilience and sacrifices of my Grandmother for keeping us safe in Italy. My memory allows me to still recall the day my Mother left Italy to travel to the US alone so that she could get a job and establish residency before I and the rest of my family could travel to Philadelphia. The gratitude I feel for my ancestors is deep, and I would not be in this beautiful country without their ingenuity and persistence.

On this Mother’s Day, I hope you delve into your own histories, and honor the women, whether they were Italian or not, those that came before you, those that set the pace for you and for giving you a better life. Women who were devoted to Our Mother Mary, who prayed the rosary, and had unquestionable faith. I’m honoring both my Grandmother and Mother who made me who I am, they were Renaissance women, ahead of their time to take charge and to protect those that they loved. Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mothers in the Universe!

About the Author:

Joanne has many years of experience in travel to Italy, Italian art, literature, film, history, wine, and cuisine. She is a lover of nature and beauty.  She is an advocate for Italian immigrant women, and the author of White Widow, which is available on Amazon.  For more information about Joanne please visit her LinkedIn page:

Published by spigonaj

Joanne Spigonardo Business Development Consultant Specializing in Sustainability, Higher Education, Career Management, and Public Relations In her former roles, Joanne served as Senior Associate Director at the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) at Wharton. Joanne was also part of the Communications Office. She held positions as business manager of the Wharton Seminars for Business Journalists and for the Wharton Alumni Magazine. Joanne also served as the media relations coordinator. When with Alitalia Airlines, Joanne worked as a sales representative. Joanne graduated from The University of Pennsylvania with a BA and later graduated from the Wharton Aresty Institute of Executive Education. She has a strong background in development, management, marketing, and Italian language and culture. As a Wharton Mentor, she coached new employees on professional development, and is active in Penn’s Grievance panels. Joanne was on the board of governors for the University Club. Joanne is chair of the Delaware County Penn Alumni Interview Program and oversees alumni volunteers. As an alum of Penn and Wharton, and also a parent of two Penn graduates, she is a strong advocate in promoting Penn. At Wharton IGEL, Joanne had been in partnership with GreenBiz, Sustainable Brands, the Ethical Corporation, Pira Packaging International, Public Relations Society of America, the Green Sports Alliance, World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia, the Italian Consulate, the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the Sonoma County Winegrowers Association, and the Nature Conservancy, as well as, many other NGO and government offices. She has brokered hundreds of corporate relationships for Wharton. Joanne is the author of her book, White Widow, published on Kindle and Amazon. The book is a fictional novel about 19th-20th Century Italian immigrants.

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