Thank You Michelina

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Sicily experienced mass emigration from the late 19th century into the early-20th century. To give you perspective, in 1880, 884 people from Sicily were documented as emigrants to other countries, while in 1906 that number was 127,603 (according to Sandra Benjamin’s book “Sicily: Three Thousand Years of Human History”). The year that saw the largest emigration was 1913, with 146,061 people leaving the island seeking work and a better life. Emigrants went to countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Canada, and the United States, to name a few. In the U.S., the thousands of emigrants became workers that drove the fast-moving industrial revolution. The garment industry was one of the fields where many Sicilians worked as seamstresses and cutters. On March 25, 1911, in New York, tragedy struck some of those garment workers when in just 15 minutes, fire swept through the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, killing 146 workers–most of whom were Jewish and Italian young women. In commemoration to those workers and their sacrifice, each year for the past six years, I’ve celebrated one of those young women, a Sicilian from Bisaquino. Michelina Nicolosi was just 21 years old when her life ended in that terrible industrial disaster. I’ve researched her life, and I’ve written a song that tells her story. Additionally, as part of a public art project, I “chalk” the sidewalk in front of the building in which she lived when she left for work that day, never to return. I do it in order to recognize her bravery for emigrating and her sacrifice so that we in the U.S. (and hopefully around the world), could have safe working conditions. So, thank you Michelina.

2 thoughts on “Thank You Michelina

    • It’s a very moving story–and so important to keep alive in our memories. All of those that died in such a tragic way. We need to recognize the value of their sacrifices so that we don’t have such things happen again (even though they are happening in places like Bangladesh as we speak!).

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