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Women's History Month and La Festa della Donna

Updated: Apr 3



π‘‡β„Žπ‘’ 𝐽𝐢𝐢𝐼𝐴 π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘ π‘‘β„Žπ‘’ JCCIA Women's Division 𝑖𝑛𝑣𝑖𝑑𝑒 π‘¦π‘œπ‘’ π‘‘π‘œ π‘“π‘œπ‘™π‘™π‘œπ‘€ π‘‘β„Žπ‘’ 𝐽𝐢𝐢𝐼𝐴 π‘œπ‘› 𝐹𝐡 π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘ πΌπ‘›π‘ π‘‘π‘Žπ‘”π‘Ÿπ‘Žπ‘š π‘‘β„Žπ‘Ÿπ‘œπ‘’π‘”β„Žπ‘œπ‘’π‘‘ π‘€π‘Žπ‘Ÿπ‘β„Ž π‘‘π‘œ π‘π‘’π‘™π‘’π‘π‘Ÿπ‘Žπ‘‘π‘’ π‘Šπ‘œπ‘šπ‘’π‘›β€™π‘  π»π‘–π‘ π‘‘π‘œπ‘Ÿπ‘¦ π‘€π‘œπ‘›π‘‘β„Ž. πΈπ‘Žπ‘β„Ž π‘‘π‘Žπ‘¦ 𝑀𝑒 𝑀𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑏𝑒 β„Žπ‘œπ‘›π‘œπ‘Ÿπ‘–π‘›π‘” πΌπ‘‘π‘Žπ‘™π‘–π‘Žπ‘›, π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘ πΌπ‘‘π‘Žπ‘™π‘–π‘Žπ‘› – π΄π‘šπ‘’π‘Ÿπ‘–π‘π‘Žπ‘› π‘Šπ‘œπ‘šπ‘’π‘›, π‘€β„Žπ‘œ β„Žπ‘Žπ‘£π‘’ π‘’π‘–π‘‘β„Žπ‘’π‘Ÿ π‘π‘œπ‘šπ‘’ π‘π‘’π‘“π‘œπ‘Ÿπ‘’ 𝑒𝑠, π‘œπ‘Ÿ π‘Žπ‘Ÿπ‘’ π‘π‘Ÿπ‘’π‘ π‘’π‘›π‘‘π‘™π‘¦ π‘šπ‘Žπ‘˜π‘–π‘›π‘” π‘ π‘–π‘”π‘›π‘–π‘“π‘–π‘π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘ π‘π‘œπ‘›π‘‘π‘Ÿπ‘–π‘π‘’π‘‘π‘–π‘œπ‘›π‘  π‘‘π‘œ π‘œπ‘’π‘Ÿ β„Žπ‘–π‘ π‘‘π‘œπ‘Ÿπ‘¦, π‘π‘’π‘™π‘‘π‘’π‘Ÿπ‘’, π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘ π‘ π‘œπ‘π‘–π‘’π‘‘π‘¦.


JCCIA Women's Division President Rose Mary Ranallo and JCCIA First Vice President Lisa Ryan invite you to join us during Women's History Month to honor and thank many Italian and Italian American women for their contributions to our community.

In 2004, after 50 years of leadership, the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans welcomed the first Woman President, Joanne Spata.

Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, (Mother Cabrini) has strong ties with Chicago as she died here on Dec. 22, 1917. The (only) National Shrine of St. Frances Cabrini, located in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood 2520 N. Lakeview Ave. was originally part of Columbus Hospital (1905) modeled after Columbus Hospital in New York City (1892- 40tth Anniversary of Columbus' Voyage).

Anchor, Reporter at WGN TV, and former Columbus Day Queen, Dina Bair, shares her touching story of growing up as a proud Italian American woman.

Scholar, educator, and author, Gloria Nardini reflects on the importance of the Italian language she learned and taught as well as her admiration for Eleanor Roosevelt.

A proven executive in both the private and public sector, and the former Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA), Rosemarie Andolino, reflects on one of her role models who was a trailblazer, former school teacher, lawyer, congresswoman, and woman's advocate: Geraldine Ferraro.


Cav.Uff Lyn "Linda" Scolaro, Third Vice President for the JCCIA, shares the Italian roots of il giorno della donna and the mimosa flower.


First-generation Italian Americans, Bianca, and Bruna, of Dino’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant, share with us a lovely history of their Family Owned & Operated business since 1968.


The first woman rabbi in Italy, Rabbi Barbara Aiello ((b.1947, Pittsburgh, PA, Italian Jewish heritage) continues to serve Jews throughout Europe as a spokesperson for Pluralistic Judaism – a movement that deliberately blurs denominational lines and extends the hand of Jewish welcome to Jews of all backgrounds.


Gia Biagi - Commissioner, Chicago Department of Transportation, maintains close ties with family in Northern Italy. Part of her upbringing meant being around her great grandmother and grandmother and hearing the stories of other women who were the backbone of their households and their community.


Honorable Celia G. Gamrath, Illinois Circuit Judge of Cook County, Chancery Division shares her pride and joy: her big beautiful Italian family.


In a field that was limited and challenging for women, Toni Ginnetti is a "Trailblazer" Sportswriter who has worked for many publications including the Chicago Sun Times. Toni was taught "nothing is beyond her reach."


An Italian chef, cookbook author, restauranteur and Food Network television personality, Giada De Laurentiis', passion for cooking has made her one of America's favorite and notable Italian American chefs.


JCCIA Past President, Enza Raineri, who also serves as Secretary of the Italian American Political Coalition (IAPC) and is JCCIA's Registered Lobbyist, encourages women "to get involved by running as a trustee, running volunteerism in the community or running as a mayor of a local town. Because the more visible we are the more people will continue to understand that the Italian American heritage in our community in Chicago, in Illinois, and beyond is very important."


Paralympic Gold and Silver Medalist, Athlete, Attorney, and Author, Linda Mastandrea shares with us: "Because of the support of the exceptional women in my life that I've been able to do the things I've done."


Angela Bambace- Italo-Brazilian -American labor union organizer for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. We are indebted to the groundbreaking example of strength and leadership Angela Bambace embodied in organizing the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) in New York and Maryland. She was the first woman elected vice president of the ILGWU in 1956.


Along with her mother, Caroline Becker Joss owns the luxury clothing brand, Caroline Rose Inc. When Caroline Becker thinks about her heritage, she thinks about all of the art that originated in Italy. Additionally, she is so grateful to her Italian parents for instilling everything it means to be Italian in her.


JCCIA Executive Director and JCCIA Past President, Jo Ann Serpico, was raised with pride in her heritage and the love of Italian traditions and values. She loves serving her community and is privileged to have been recognized and honored by numerous organizations. Jo Ann shares, "I was overwhelmed when the Italian Government bestowed on me the reward of achievements, a Cavaliere of the Republic of Italy."


Former JCCIA Debutante, 2018 Columbus Day Parade Chairwoman, and a life-long supporter of the JCCIA, Mariann Gullo, shares her pride and joy for her blessed Sicilian upbringing between Chicago and Sicily and all that she has accomplished as COO of Gullo International.



Lisa M. Turano, Vice-President, Legal of Turano Baking Company and the President of the Turano Foundation, shares, "My ethnic identity is an indivisible component of my person. It is so much a part of me that I find it hard to believe there is not some external identifying characteristic which stamps me Italian. My essence of being Italian comes from my spirit within. As women, we are faced with the encouragement to "have it all" and the reality of having it all at the same time is usually impossible. My obstacles as a woman have included having to make the difficult decisions of timing when to put personal pleasures or career advancements on pause in order to focus and execute on education, accomplishments, and family ideals."


Geraldine Ferraro (1935-2011, b. Newburgh, N.Y.) congresswoman; first woman ever to run on a major party’s ticket in a U.S. presidential election.


One of the first women to run a sports department in the TV newsroom she worked in, Lissa Druss, overcame a lot and rose to the challenge with grace. Founder and CEO of Strategia LLC, Lissa is incredibly proud of being a Cavaliere OSI and we thank her for her continued contributions to the JCCIA and the Italian American community.


Italian immigrant, Ivana Di Piero, reminisces about the courage it took for her parents to bring their family to America with a "few belongings and lots of dreams" on the cruise liner Michelangelo. Ivana's mother and daughter continue to inspire her and bring her joy and pride. As a hairstylist, relationships are what is most important to Ivana in her work and this summer Ivana Di Piero Hair Studio celebrates 30 years-Congrats!


Mary Lou Retton (b.1968) first female gymnast from outside Eastern Europe to win the Olympic gold medal in the women’s individual all-around competition at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, CA; elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame (1982).


Former Miss Italia Queen, Briana DiTommaso Cardone is very proud to be Italian American and recognized as a Female entrepreneur by the JCCIA.


Dr. Carla Simonini, Director of Italian American Studies, Associate Professor at Loyola University Chicago, encourages us all to continue to support and learn the Italian language and trace our stories back to the areas of origin in the smaller central and southern towns in Italy. Dr. Simonini attributes the strong women in her family who stepped up to make it possible for her generation to attend college and earn advanced degrees.


Natalie DiCianni, 2019 Columbus Day Queen, and Avanti Club Treasurer shares the special connection between her great grandmother and Rose Kennedy whom she admires as an important woman in history.


Mary Anna Crisallis Sansone (1916-2018) died at the age of 101; described by the New York Times as a β€œgutsy Brooklyn social worker who created a robust community service organization that bridged racial and ethnic barriers, defied the Mafia, and befriended supportive politicians;” founder of the Congress of Italian American Organizations (CIAO) who spent many years in service to the Italian American community and to Italian immigrants.


Dr. Geri Ann DiFranco, DDS, a Periodontics Practitioner for 30 years, shares that she is a very proud Italian American woman who remembers the two very strong influences in her life: her mother, Geraldine, and her grandmother, Josephine. They both taught her to be humble and helpful to others, as well as faithfulness, kindness, and as Italians, the importance of taking care of each other.


Teresa Cafarelli de Francisci born Mary Teresa Cafarelli in a town south of Naples, Italy, was four years old when she and her mother emigrated to the United States. Cafarelli de Francisci is best known as the model for the depiction of Liberty on the obverse of the Peace Dollar and as the wife of artist Anthony de Francisci.

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