Mary Grace Hume

As Interviewed by Amy Vance, March 15, 2017
"The Italian-Americans have given a lot to this country, as have all the ethnic groups. The Irish, the Chinese, the Arabs, they have all contributed in their way to make this country really great."
Mary Grace Hume

Introductory Profile: About Mary Grace Hume

Mary Grace Hume, my grandmother, was born in New York. Her parents were both Italian immigrants; her father came to America in 1915 and her mother in 1926. According to my research, they were likely two of roughly 4 million people leaving Southern Italy due to poverty, overpopulation, and other factors. Many Italians worked in the garment industry for a very low income. Mary Grace Hume’s father worked as a presser and her mother as a seamstress. New York received the greatest amount of immigrants in all of America, but unfortunately, the discrimination against them was high. In this interview, Mary Grace Hume describes how this affected her childhood, and how Italian immigrants responded to this treatment.

In the lowest social position, Italian Americans did not have a lot of power. This prevented them from doing much about the low income that came from working in the garment industry and other menial jobs. Mary Grace Hume tells how the Italian workers in a certain industry would form unions to get fair pay and working hours. Since many jobs in the garment workers’ industry were taken up entirely by Italian immigrants, the workers were able to unite and go on strike. This could result in entire critical parts of the industry refusing to work, which would bring production to a halt until the unions and the industry were able to agree on suitable terms. This was one small way Italian-Americans were able to hold a bit of power, and they used it to their advantage. As long as they didn’t overdo it, this would prove to be a useful tool to not only the Italians, but other immigrants facing the same problems.