Female emigrants and wives of emigrants

Section 10 of 12   back - next

The conditions of the women in all the towns of the district were very disappointing but, owing to the arduous lifestyle they had to endure, were really miserable in the mountain towns of Frisanco, Andreis, Barcis, Claut, Cimolais and Erto.

The women were forced to take the place of the pack animals and to walk kilometers with sixty kilogram loads on their backs” observed the lawyer Fovel in 1874.

The women from the piedmont and especially those from the mountains- travelling saleswomen, nursemaids, and farmhands – did not need to wait until the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s to compete for jobs outside of the household.

The jobs helped improve the domestic finances but were frequently miserable and precarious jobs.
For example, between the 18th and 19th centuries, the women would frequently go to Pio Lungo of Venice to get the abandoned babies to breastfeed them receiving compensation for this.

The profession of nursemaid is a profession that, in Friuli, became a sort of refuge for mothers, a refuge not only from the mountains but also from the plains.

The noticeable participation of women in emigration in the first years of the 1900s does not damage the central role the women have slowly developed in the running of the household and the family's finances.

This central role developed because of the temporary male emigration.

The role of the woman in transoceanic emigration gains importance not only upon their arrival abroad but also at the time of the difficult decision to depart towards the Argentine and Brazilian countryside.

In the first fifteen years of the 1900s, but especially in the 1920s and 1930s, the departure of the women to "gî a servi", to go to be of service in large Italian cities, grew immensely.

The women were scattered from Rome to Venice, from Naples to Milan and from Padua to Genoa.

As emigrants or the wives of emigrants, in far away lands or closer to home, in other regions of Italy or, simply, we can say, staying in town, at home or at the spinning mill for example, the departure of the man of the family forced the woman into a different role also.

The effort of the woman, she who remained home and she who left, marked the great transformations and the difficult social and economic progress that, especially towards the end of the first world war, hit Friuli in all its aspects.