Hand-Embroidered Pillowcase


I come from a family of Irish, Italian, and Cuban origins, and the object I have picked relates to my Italian heritage. My great grandmother, Carmela Galle lived to be 100 years old, however, she died when I was only 2. Despite my memories of her being preserved through photographs alone, the stories I hear about her strength and resilience in the face of discrimination make me proud of my ancestry. 
Carmela was born on November 11, 1903, the youngest of 12 in Reggio Calabria. When she was 5, her family emigrated to America. She was left behind because some feared she would “lose her religion.” After her mother’s passing, she was taken in by an influential family (there were rumors that the wealthy landowner had been her biological father as the result of a nonconsensual relationship). When she turned 17, she bravely traveled by herself to Ellis Island. She lived with her brother in New Jersey before marrying Dominic Romeo. Upon moving to West Virginia, he became a coal miner and saved money to open a general store. They raised five children and sent them all to college, including the girls, at my great grandmother’s insistence. 
The object I chose is something that is always so close to me, yet it has taken me a while to recognize the significance of. In Italy, my great grandmother would have learned to sew, and sewing skills would have been very important for a girl of marriageable age. The fact that I have one of her hand stitched pillowcases with me every night when I go to bed provides me with a physical symbol of her journey and life. 

Place(s): Italy
Year: 1920

– GH.

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more