Family, community, culture and welfare capitalism among Italian women in Endicott

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




John W. Briggs


Italian women, Endicott (New York State), Familial goals, Industrial life, Immigrant culture

Subject Categories



The purpose of this study is to examine the adaptation or rural, southern Italian women to industrial life in Endicott, New York, during the early decades of the twentieth century. It reveals how Italian women achieved familial goals through their participation in wage labor and how, through their social and communal activities, they facilitated their families' adaptation to American life. It presents a clear case of the larger issue of the persistence and influence of immigrant culture in the new world, an issue that has been at the center of immigration scholarship for the past three decades.

The methodology of the study includes historical analysis of the George F. Johnson Papers, United States census data, statistical analysis of the Endicott Johnson Employment Records, and interviews with former Endicott Johnson employees.

The major conclusions of the study are that Italian women in Endicott, New York achieved familial goals through participation in wage labor; and, that the participation of the Italian female labor force in America varied significantly according to the characteristics of the local environment. These characteristics included the economic structure of the city, the geographic settlement patterns of immigrants, the local job market, the sexual segmentation of the work force and the proximity of work place to residence. In Endicott, the paternalistic practices of the Endicott Johnson Corporation and its program of welfare capitalism acted as a further incentive for Italian women to enter wage labor.

A further conclusion, illustrated through Italian women's participation in social and communal activities and Americanization programs, is that Italian women were active agents of change and adaptation to American life. Finally, while adapting to life in America, Italian women retained aspects of their cultural background and heritage.

This study offers an expanded perspective on the working experiences of Italian women in America, the institutions and organizations they formed and the roles they played in their community and in the workplace.


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