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tv   Women John Steinbecks Cannery Row  CSPAN  February 7, 2021 6:59pm-8:01pm EST

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you can watch this and other programs on the history of communities across the country at cities tour. this is american history tv only on c-span 3. you're watching american history tv every weekend on c-span 3 explore our nation's past american history tv on c-span 3 created by america's cable television companies and today we're brought to you by these television companies who provide american history tv to viewers as a public service. published in 1945 cannery row by john steinbeck takes place in the sardine canneries of monterey, california in her own book beyond cannery row sicilian women immigration and community
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in monterey, california 1915 to 1999. carol lynn mckibben focuses on the role women played in the industry and how they were represented in steinbeck's novel. center for the american west hosted and provided the video for this program. i'm really excited to be here today to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the publication of steinbeck's cannery row and his literary genius, but also to share a view of steinbeck country from a female and working class perspective. so i'd like to begin by visually going back in time to the 1930s marco martinez put together a great series of photographs from that era that i want to spend just a couple of minutes going through to illustrate what i'm about to discuss and we can return to them at the end marco might you please share that on
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the screen. thank you. so the first slide is a juxtaposition of our books now this is not to say that i'm equivalent to steinbeck he was a genius i'm not but the covers tell this essential story of perspective so on in his cover it's about the guys hanging out but mine is really about these working class women who actually formed the bulk of the workplace in cannery row the next slide is a view of the row and when we read stein back, this is what we might imagine. it's a pretty dilapidated place in his world right versus this view of monterey and the ocean which is taken from lover's point, and it might be
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considered. this is the immigrant perspective. this is what they saw this beautiful ocean teaming with fish and it's a big pull factor for immigrant sicilians. also clear in the next slide is that this world was not a world of hanging out this was the world of work and it is in juxtaposition with steinbeck's world of play it's women's centered and it's working class and above all its industrialized and the next slide shows the same kind of view this is hard work women at work and i think there's another one. right this multicultural multi-ethnic working class world it was a family world too and the next slide kind of celebrates family, which i'm going to be focused on a lot and you can see that it's multi-generational. it's exuberant.
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it's robust and it's grounded by women. as monterey transformed and all kind of go into this, you know a little more detail culturally into a new ethnic working city. i want you go to the next slide there marco, please this was the transformation of monterey represented in santa rosalia, and we see how this played out on the wharf and how how important and vibrant it became and i think you have another slide on the boats. right and you know this big celebration of italian culture and fishing is there one more that shows the crowds of the wharf? yes, and that is all so part of santa rosalia this really claiming space in monterey. and then the war years finally at this point what we see are
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not soldiers but evidence of exclusions marginalization and this medicine flyer poster really speaks to the fear of the warriors also, so thank you marco. we'll come back to this and i'd like to like to begin our conversation about cannery row, so i'd like to begin first not with my own words, but with the words of one of the women i interviewed way back when i first published this book, she introduced me to the italian catholic federation a group of women by saying thank you, honey for writing this book that son of a -- signed back ruined everything for us, which was a little shocking for me, but i also understood. exactly what she was talking about and when we look at that those photographs, we also
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understand that it was a very different world for her she and they wanted to be seen they wanted respect acknowledgment understanding of their struggle and their power. so in this work of mine this dissertation, i wrote so many years ago. i tried really hard to do that to give them the respect and recognition that they deserved and that they felt was lacking and going back to steinbeck and his brilliant novel we can see why they might have felt that way he begins with one of the most memorable paragraphs in american literature, but it also shows something else that's important. it clearly shows what women were angry with him about cannery row is a poem. he wrote a stink a grating noise a quality of light a tone a habit a nostalgia a dream
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cannery row is the gathered and scattered tin and iron and rust and splintered wood chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps sard. canneries of corrugated iron honky talks restaurants and -- houses and little crowded groceries and laboratories and flop houses. it's inhabitants are as the man once said -- pimps gamblers and sons of -- by which he meant. everybody had the man looked through another peephole. he might have said saints and angels and martyrs and holy men, and he would have meant the same thing. steinbeck's nostalgic monterey is dilapidated lazy neglected. the canneries were something of an afterthought women were just the appendages to the main characters and main events of this whimsical story set in the
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1930s, but written during world war ii to entertain bands of brothers fighting in the pacific and european theaters and by everybody. he met men women were there too. however, neither women nor men for that matter were horrors or sons of -- nor were they saints or angels? they were real live human beings fully human whose lives showed just how powerful they could be in building families in creating new communities in a strange new world and finally transforming that world itself. so i came away from my own research with this feeling of awe for what they did. cannery row was not the dreamscape of steinbeck's telling either to the women and families who made up this sicilian immigrant working class or any of the working class people in monterey in the early
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part of the century. i focused so specifically on sicilians because their demographic predominance in monterey made them important and because the feedback i got from non sicilian cannery workers suggested that theirs was a story that needed telling on its own. first of all, sicilian immigrants made up about a third of monterey's pretty tiny population by the 1930s and they continue to be this significant minority group in monterey. there were only two families in 1900 but 20 years later there were 972 italian. according to the census out of a population of a little over 6,000 a decade later by 1930 when steinbeck was writing sicilians numbered a little over 3000. out of a total population of a little over 9,000 and they've remained about a third of monterey's population ever since
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now a common response from former cannery workers of japanese mexican and filipino descent to my questions about their work lives in the canneries was that the workforce was divided between sicilians and non sicilians which made me curious plus my own sicilian family members gave me an entree into this population. i've learned that to formers cannery workers generally but specifically for sicilians monterey in the early 20th century was quite the opposite of what steinbeck depicted in steinbeck's world women stayed on the sidelines passively waiting for men to chose them as lovers or wives. they're only purpose was just serve to wait to stand by while men took center stage but women were central in monterey in the in that era.
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they were not peripheral. they were busy active in constant motion and in control creating new communities and changing the complexion of monterey in the process the ocean drew them this beautiful ocean that we saw a little photograph of with pristine beaches, right? it was reminiscent of the mediterranean and the sicilian beaches they knew so well only this one was teeming with fish while in their mediterranean the fish were nearly extinct by the 19 teens and fishy families were desperate and starving by the 30s. i interviewed over 150 sicilians on both sides of the ocean for this book several recalled in really vivid language the poverty of those years as an impetus for out migration. one immigrant remembered that in sicily children fought over a
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potato in the street. and fishermen had to go farther and farther out to sea to find a catch. they often returned empty-handed after long dangerous excursions as far away as north africa. sometimes they didn't return at all. the ocean for them was a resource to be harvested it was not an environment for scientific study as steinbeck depicted through the lens of doc rickets the only recourse for them was to leave to start over but where would they go by 1910s they were hearing rumors that in monterey the fish were so plentiful. they're coming into the houses, which is a pretty big big pull. so we see from the beginning this big pool, but also we see women's pivotal role in the processes of immigration and settlement they were central. nancy munchapony one woman
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explained it to me here is how it was. she said the family's came from italy for a better life in italy. there was nothing so the families all got together. they sent a father or son out first the women who came came because they wanted to keep the families together. they all worked in the countries here. they took a risk they were very brave to leave like that. they all so argued that it went in italy there was only fishing women couldn't work. that was for the men so that's how the decision happened and they were brave immigration. what was and is never never easy and it's rarely if ever a decision that families make lightly or that people make alone women came as men came. they were parts of tightly woven families within households that included several generations of in and it was this roar of
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industry that promised them a way out of their extreme poverty and gave them a, new path to a new american world of prosperity and hope and most importantly independence for themselves and their children. monterey wasn't a junkyard. it was not a marginal space that this that steinbeck recollected for them. it was all so beautiful so modern so full of everything that embodied the american dream. and yet the world of industrialized work in the 30s was anything but the easy casual labor that's died back described when he told the story about the boys finding a little work in the canneries to earn a little money to throw a party for their beloved doc rickets. the women i came to know constituted the bulk of the workforce that made monterey into an economic powerhouse by
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the 30s from almost nothing at the turn of the century. the fishing industry grew into a 50 million dollar enterprise 30 years later which is almost a billion dollars today and it happened in the context of a regional explosion of industrialization in food production that included the salinas valley next next door also famous women cannery workers were committed to a regiment of sustained hard labor. they did not come and go as they pleased like mack and the boys. this was not casual labor by any means they described to me a rigid workplace and a harsh reality cannery whistles a different one for each cannery called them to work at any hour of the day or night when the boats returned with loads of fish that had to be cleaned and packed immediately.
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now these were teenagers and young mothers who left babies in small children with older siblings or older relatives so they could work it might be too in the afternoon or two in the morning, but if you wanted to keep your job, you dropped everything and got there within 45 minutes. usually you had to walk. we worked hard was a constant refrain women and girls some as young as 14 remember standing online for hours and hours and hours in freezing cold canneries in ankle deep water constantly running on the floors with the machinery. so deafening that women often suffered permanent hearing loss. they work 12-hour shifts six days a week for 33 cents an hour. you got fired if you got pregnant miscarriages were common and led to all kinds of reproductive problems even infertility. so we're accidents.
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can you imagine squeezing the guts out of fish at three or four in the morning? my auntie nina asked me when i was pressing her about the nature of her work many described it as hell and dangerous you had to watch out for each other so you didn't get hurt because some women got so tired. they fell asleep standing up on the job. the smell was awful and here steinbeck had it right it even got into your hair women were ashamed of that when they left work, but they were defiant too when confronted by montereyans about the way they smelled they often responded. you know what you smell you smell money. so this world of work was a woman's world not a man's world women were proud of their work and demanded respect for it, which they felt steinbeck in his telling of prostitutes crazy. ladies lazy women who only wanted to be cared for didn't give that being called lazy by
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the way is probably the worst insult in sicilian culture. they were clearly aware of their exploitation here and they resented it. they were under the complete control of four ladies almost all of whom were italian and related and i can say more about that later if you want they even timed us when we went to the bathroom. i was told as an example of their collective feeling of indignity and oppression on the job which united them across ethnic lines, but to them steinbeck's working class prostitutes ignited a horror and a deep fear. god forbid they would be seen as those kinds of working girls. sicilian cannery workers even though they shared lunch and camaraderie with other working class women purposefully maintained a distance and insularity based on ethnicity and one of the ways they did
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that was by speaking only dialect which excluded everyone else they might have shared their lunches but that comradery ended when they left the workplace at the end of the day i believe that this distancing had a lot to do with racial ideologies that privileged whiteness in this country and sicilians were thrilled to be seen as white in contrast to their fellow mexican american and asian american workers they wanted to be sure that they held tightly onto that part of their identity but given these harsh conditions and the context this was the 1930s the iww the communist party the cio these were at peak levels of organization. longshoremen organized a walkout in san francisco in 1934 matched up and down the urban west that brought the city to san francisco to a standstill.
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in salinas where i'm now completing a new book project filipinos initially walked out of the lettuce fields in solidarity with women packing house workers many of whom had come from the dust bowl who demanded equal pay they didn't get it, but they did get a seat at the bargaining table. now that walk out that let us strike in 1936 was the catalyst for um, that brought the city a great notoriety and national attention and it also led to the famous law collette congressional hearings of 1938. so given this context even locally i expected to find at least some working class solidarity that would cross ethnic lines just like vicky ruiz did in her analysis of fruit cannery workers in san jose during the same period but i didn't and again i think part of that came from this deep need to be considered white in the american. text and you know in italy
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sicilians all southerners really were looked at as inferior in relationship to northern italians. so they felt that keenly and they certainly didn't want to align too closely with anyone of color in the us. so labor union activism multiracial as it was in the 30s seemed really dangerous for them, which they expressed. but there was another part to this lack of solidarity monterey fish cannery workers did organize in unions into unions in 1937, but it was over the objections of sicilian women and it was complicated by more than just ideas about race in america sicilian women workers in the canneries were usually related by kin to the owners of the canaries. what is family here one narrator explained. i will tell you what it became
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it became this interlocking network of fisherman by which he met everyone cannery workers cannery owners vote owners fishing people. there was this intensive activity. he said intermarriage so that the community is truly linked by blood family was the entire group children were raised together as cousins we had the same values we had the same traditions we even had the same thing for dinner every night which was true? write down to material possessions. everyone had the same thing. well that really wasn't true. some people had more than others. there was a lot of jealousy. so that's another story, but it was unthinkable to go on strike against your own family, even your extended family. so instead of organizing or being part of these labor movements, they turned their hardship at work into profit and remade monterey in their own image in the process culturally
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and politically not just by their labor. but also by the way, they lived their lives formed a common bond and identity and express their culture at home and in the streets i learned about their power women and men both in sicily and in monterey commonly referred to their families as little matriarchies, which is the word i would not use myself loaded as it is, but there it was. it was used to explain how critical women's migration decisions were in the first place and the whole pattern and experience of settlement as i learned more about these families. i began to really appreciate women's economic power beyond earning wages in the canneries italian families customarily gave the power of the purse to women among fishing families. this was intensified because men were physically out on the ocean
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sometimes for weeks and months at sicilian women immigrants who barely spoke english and had almost no education took advantage of the opportunity to make investments in real estate and monterey. claiming space in the city rather than buying more and bigger fishing boats as their husbands would have liked their intention was to break the pattern of endless migration of just following the fish and to settle in monterey for good which they expressed over and over again to me. they knew from experience that fishing was precarious dependent as it was on fragile capricious ocean environments, and they decided to change course, but not everyone plenty of families moved to san pedro in southern california even to south america and then back to sicily but many many more stayed put and these were the ones that i focused on for that reason.
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they bought homes. that was a priority for them scrimping and negotiating their way through they even bought up whole city blocks in monterey. using savings from fishing when it was at its most lucrative sometimes even without first informing their husbands about their plans several women told me that they waited for their husbands to go fishing before making a purchase on a home or investment property in monterey. so i checked and i traced ownership and tax records and i noted that many of these were and women's names. they really did do that one woman explained that after her father died. she not her brothers took over the family finances for the entire extended family of four siblings and their families. i was in charge of investment. she said i took equity out of one property and put it into malls and shopping centers. i made it grow. it's still supports us in the 90s.
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another narrator whose husband intended to move the family to south america to follow the fish just kept taking the for sale sign down from their house. every time her husband left when he returned from fishing and realized what she was doing. he sat down on the front steps and cried but in the end she talked him into selling his boat the family invested in a liquor store in monterey and they're still here. beyond the economic sicilian women made a collective decision in the 1930s to counter the pressure of americanization that necessarily involved intermarriage with mexican portuguese filipino, japanese and chinese americans among the workers with whom they shared neighborhoods and space in monterey. they denied this insisting that italian culture always required arranged marriages and insularity from the first moment of arrival, but their marriage
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record records proved otherwise throughout the early years of migration in the teens in the 20s italian young people of both sexes. we're marrying outside the group at very high rates just like everyone else in multi-racial multi-ethnic working class communities in california. sicilian women thus had real work to do in monterey to keep that from continuing which they were collectively invested in doing this was in stark contrast to sicilian communities elsewhere in nearby agricultural areas like salinas or gilroy and morgan hill where my family settled and young people just married, whomever. they please sicilian women in this fishing community consciously worked to build a community out of disparate immigrants who came from rival villages in sicily starting with arranged marriages. well into the 1960s both within the community from nearby
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fishing towns in california and once immigration law changed in their favor in the post war from sicilian fishing villages too in monterey. it was family to family. that is how we got along i was told unequivocally they all so created this woman's world of works around the catholic church, san carlos church prayer groups celebrating the virgin mary craft groups and most important seized on the santa rosalia festival which brought everyone together in common purpose to cement their identity as sicilians santa rosalia was not commonly celebrated in the villages. they came from saint joseph's festa was the preferred one, but santa rosalia was a woman. and it was a woman-centered event honoring the guardian of fishermen. it was a way of bringing all of these diverse immigrant fishing people together in a common
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expression of shared identity in america and in monterey the community depended on and circled around this intensive activity by women. they really made it into this women's world santa rosalia was political too, but not in the conventional definition of politics. it wasn't about voting or running for office. it was about organizing and it was grassroots. there was food and music and boats were decorated and you saw a picture of that tens of thousands of sicilians and italians from all over california came to monterey to celebrate with them, but most importantly hundreds of women dressed in these long white gowns took over the streets of monterey claiming it as their own making their formidable presence felt by the 30s when millions really made up 1/3 of monterey's population. they wanted monterey to know it.
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it was women on parade one woman said and she described her nona dressed in a long white gown with a hat ordering everybody around and how wonderful it felt to see her grandmother doing such a thing. world war ii derailed them the reality in this other view of monterey in the 30s and 40s also challenges steinbeck's portrayal of this place as a world in which groups got along seamlessly with little attention to race or ethnicity. in fact in steinbeck's monterey lee chong the chinese grocer wields considerable social and economic power among this ragtag group of men centered around doc's lab not so here for the sicilians ethnicity mattered very much and was always connected to place in the aftermath of pearl harbor gender roles reversed and men in
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families assumed the primary and very public role of defending the group as patriotic americans, even though both women and men have supported mussolini, and we're very proud of his conquests. they sent their wedding rings to back to system back to italy just like every other italian enclave in the country did it was a bittersweet time in the italian community one narrator told me we were the majority in town and we were a tight community. were all patriotic americans. however, many of them mostly the nonas the grandmothers failed to go through the process of naturalization and citizenship. so they were designated enemy aliens and forced to leave the coast after fdr's executive order 9066 included them in the wholesale roundup and incarceration of japanese and japanese americans.
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but it was scatter shot many just moved to san francisco unclear on the concept of moving away from the coast and many more to salinas where they were not exactly welcomed one man said we went to live in salinas. it was not easy wherever i went for work. i was asked if i was italian descent i was turned down every time although i was a natural born american. this was very disturbing. i finally found employment at the salinas fairgrounds as a carpenter building a prison camp for the japanese. there was no solidarity here much less compassion expressed for the natural born japanese americans who were also falsely targeted. by the american government as enemies of the state. there was just this sense of bitterness and hostility again, it became clear that they viewed themselves as white and were deeply offended at the connection to anyone.
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they considered racially inferior in the american context. they held on to whiteness for dear life. whereas steinbach championed the cause of japanese americans and even led a campaign here in monterey after the war years to welcome them back to his home in salinas and monterey, but for the italians, it was fierce. one person said the only thing we felt bad about was why did we have to move out of town? the italians didn't do anything. we didn't hurt anybody. it was the jobs that did it another narrator recalled. there was this japanese kid that sat next to me in school and one day he was gone. i didn't care the truth is we all sort of said good riddance. so i interviewed. people in the 1990s and at that time narrators uniformly told me that their removal by executive order was hurtful it was inconvenient but it was quickly repaired when the order was
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rescinded at least for them six months later when italy joined the allies however by the time my book was published in 2006 the renewed attention to italians and germans affected by that executive order led many of them to change their stories from one of inconvenience to severe trauma so you know once again the limits of oral history as historical evidence here in conclusion the post-war led to a replenishment of immigration from the original sicilian fishing villages after immigration opened up in the with the immigration act of 1965. it also led to increased rates of returns to so in my field work i was surprised and you know i envisioned all those known as all those grandmothers rolling over in their graves to see their thirty something
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grandchildren, especially granddaughters returning to live in the fishing villages. now resort towns like monterey that they had left some 50 years earlier most importantly we can appreciate in this moment in this post-war how prescient and adaptive and nimble these women were and i'm glad to talk a little bit more about that fishing is still important in monterey, but it is no longer this industrialized zone cannery row. after the sardines disappeared in the 1950s cannery row went through a metamorphosis of sorts first decaying through the 60s and 70s be set by fires in the cannery some of you know questionable or origin and targeted by environmentalists for destroying the coastline and the fisheries, but then cannery row re-emerges in 1984 with the internationally famous monterey bay aquarium as a bona fide
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tourist mecca, so those sicilian women investments in restaurants and real estate and retail really paid off for them by the 1980s. as we celebrate steinbeck's genius 75 years later. we also bear in mind that his view was his view that even though he didn't see them the world of cannery row first and foremost was a world people even defined by these strong creative brave powerful working class immigrant women many of whom were sicilian thank you. bruce i leave it to you to collect the questions and maybe we can do another shared screen and revisit those pictures. so we have some questions carol
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we can get started on it. can you hear me? yes, i can. okay good. so the first question comes from james. and he says well you know reading steinbeck's letters to his publishers i'm not sure he liked it women look at his portrayal like women he look at his portrayal kathy and east of eden so would it be a surprise that in both cannery road and tortilla flat the women played a secondary role? um, were you surprised when you did your research or does it make sense in the in the context that he's talking about that this was a distorted view of the role of women? i think kathy is about the most evil person either evil character i've ever read about i wasn't surprised but i really understood the visceral reaction to steinbeck and why? he was despised. i wasn't surprised at all because i grew up among very
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strong and powerful sicilian women and i wasn't doing research in reaction only to steinbeck but also to the portrayal of italian immigration that tended to ignore women altogether as part of the process of immigration and settlement so i'm not alone and not this is not original, but there were a whole group of scholars doing research on italian immigration. especially southern italian women to claim them not as passively standing behind their fathers and husbands and brothers but as actors in their own right in the whole process of immigration and settlement i wasn't surprised and but i was surprised to hear words like matriarchy that was that was a little much i thought that's that's pretty extreme wouldn't i would argue. that's not really true. but oh, well, that's what they said. mostly their their sons said
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that and when i when i did when i was doing my work a lot of families all the boys would go to their mother's house religiously every sunday they spent time with their mama and that was i kind of thought that was a good thing. so we have a question from catherine that says what is your current project regarding salinas thank you for asking catherine. i'm doing as study in salinas that does not focus on an ethnic group. it's an urban history of salinas beginning in the well, you know beginning with the native people, but then moving through the 19th and 20th and into the 21st century in the context of urban, california, and i think that right now we have a lot of understanding of what happened in california urban life with the big municipalities and the
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big metropolitan areas but agricultural area regions have not been studying so much and if they have they've been studied really with the focus on a specific ethnic group, so i aim in this study to look at salinas more comprehensively and to look at it not just from an angle of labor or ethnicity but to bring it into an understanding of urban life in a rural region it is the county seat it is the center and probably the most important it is the largest city and the central coast region. so for that it deserves some attention. i'm almost finished. i'm on the last chapter. okay, so we've got two questions from michael the first one is you mentioned if four women supervising the lines, but i thought the photos had four men. i men supervising the lines. can you speak about the supervision and the relationship
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between men and women in that context? that's a good question. and you're absolutely right. it wasn't just women who supervised but the women who were appointed supervisors tended to be women who could identify as white women so mexican women were not being, you know promoted in that way and they were pretty pretty powerful and pretty ruthless and used their positions to you know reward favorites and punish others so there was a lot of resentment in the workplace about the role of four ladies and i think vicki ruiz does a great job in her book cannery lives when she talks about that in the san jose canneries that it was a workplace of it was a workplace that in which the workers were mexican filipino italian, but the four ladies were all italian women and they
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wielded power. they were pretty dominant in terms of that, you know the modicum of power that they had they used. so michael also asks, well you you spoke of the importance of white identity to the sicilians, but how did they become white do they become white on arrival, or was it a process the transformation and that is the title of a great book by tom golielo, but they were white by law. they were white by law and in california anyone of european origin was treated. as white right because in california, we're living in a very multiracial. state it was unusually so and the presence of mexicans mexican americans and multiple asian groups. meant that any european origin people would be treated as they were white. so here we see irish americans
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and italian americans immediately considered mainstream whereas if you lived in chicago they were not quite accepted until world war ii and after world war ii at the federal level the government sort of eclipsed all of those racial. categories that had been so important in the early part of the century and considered everyone that was hyphenated white if you were of european origin. so that's when the that's when the real cultural transition happened. the legal transition was the legal point was that they were always considered white by law not always treated that way but certainly more in places like california than in places like chicago or philadelphia. um, so we have a question from actually another professor at stanford greg roston. yes, how many women actually
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participated in the labor force in the 30s? you might break that down. was it higher among the sicilians than the other ethnic groups? you know, that was a really tough one. it was hard to count heads because of the disappearance of records when those canneries were burned and so i never could get a handle on how many it's that's the million dollar question here, but it was pretty much of a mixed workplace. this was definitely a multi-ethnic workforce. i don't want to argue that sicilian women were the only workers there were there was a really strong presence of filipinos and mexican americans of other asian groups chinese and japanese, although they kind of sorted out by work. so japanese tended to focus on the abalone and chinese had
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their own kind of separate community. they all participated in the canneries, but sicilians numerically domin did because they numerically dominated monterey's population. but you know, i tore my hair out trying to get the numbers because the canneries just they if they did keep numbers they they didn't keep them for posterity. they really disappeared. i looked at one man. who was a labor organizer. i hope that he could give me the records, but he didn't have them either. so. you know, unfortunately. so in the literature about ethnic communities that come over to work particularly say with the mexican american community. it's common for the men to come over as soul workers and then only later for the families to reunite. what what happened here. is it this did the sicilians
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come over right from the start with their family and if so, is this different from the other groups that they were working with in in the cannery? it's deceptive. it's deceptive right because when we see male workers, we assume they made this decision all by themselves they did not they were fit there were family strategies. so when we see mexican-american men coming over to work, we need to understand that the family got together and made that kind of a decision that gender always played a role in migration decisions. even if it's not visible to us. and they sometimes it made sense to send a woman first if she was young and strong and she could make some money and send it back to her family. it depended on the family situation. most commonly the people who were the most survive the what
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the best bet of finding work and could be on their own. for a limited period of time we're young men, but that didn't mean that those decisions were made by them all by themselves. they were made in family conferences and women didn't just go to join men. they had agendas of their own either. they were going to find you know, complete a family circle or they were going to find work for families left behind. so i think that what we've learned about immigration history is that it's a complicated story and if we just look at the surface, we don't really see how how interconnected it all was and how gender matters so much. so the matriarch of the family could be telling someone to go that doesn't mean she didn't have power or that he was going all by himself in other words and often whether it was a young man or a young woman or whoever went they didn't come and live
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by themselves. they came to someone so we see these complicated receiving networks, too. um, and sometimes they came with the intention of returning sometimes not things were so dire and sicily in the early 20th century that most families intended to one by one by one relocate because there just didn't seem to any point in staying. carol that they're a bunch of people that don't have questions but have written very nice things or suggestions of other studies. so hopefully marco can hold or save those for you, but i want to stick with the questions for the sake of keeping an interesting to everybody so one question that comes up here is where there are there one or two women that really stand out and i think probably this questioner would like to sort of see if
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they can follow up on it or read more about it. but are there one or two women that really sort of exemplify a lot of what you're talking about that you think deserves special focus? oh, i just you know, i really did fall in love when i did this. i did i did lucy gruel stood out to me, um in her nineties katharine cardinali anita franti, you know, i they they became very close and that was very difficult because you're trying to write. a dissertation you're trying to write a critical analysis of a community you it's hard when you do fall in love at almost can't be helped, but i so admired their strength. and their power in the face of a world that was pretty hostile that didn't really think that they were worth very much that they i admired so much they're
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accomplishment without education or without means they had no means to do what they did. they really did and lucy was, you know, unfortunately in a tough situation at home, but she scrimped and saved and bought a house by herself. how do you do that? you know, i just had so much admiration for so many and now that you say that in my mind's eye, i'm just seeing i can't pick out anybody in particular because they were also important to me nancy mangipani. oh my gosh, there were just so many. um, so here's a question you refer over and over again that most of them were sicilians. was there any division between sicilians and other italians or did you get okay talk a little bit about that then. okay, it got a little ly she
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didn't get to march in the center of the lea parade because her family was not from sicily. um our own leon panetta family is not sicilian there are yes there was a very very deep division that kind of during world war ii because during world war ii there is a kind of relaxing of those rigid barriers between sicilians and non sicilians that war really, you know, you hate to think of a war as the pivotal turning point, but in some ways it was because suddenly it was a lot more relaxed. it was a lot more important to become more american it was kind of okay to marry outside the group and there were a lot lots more returns after that. so yes, it was it was a very big marker and sicilians in monterey
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still will identify as sicilian i went to an event in the early 2000s at the italian catholic federation and the whole conversation was whether they should call their group italian or sicilian and the conversation lasted over an hour. so it's still a matter of pride and support in italy region is everything yeah, so here's a question to what x what's your view of cannery row today? i mean, it seems like you called it a i guess a tourist mecca and yeah it do you feel like um, it's a positive retelling of the community of what happened in the past you or you feel like it's two commercialized is essentially what's being asked here. everybody would say it's too commercialized. i don't feel that way.
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i think when i walk when you when you walk down foam street or you walk down cannery row. yes, it's commercialized but there are also all these little remnants of cannery row. i don't think it's such a terrible thing and steinbeck actually wrote about this. he said, you know, let's not criticize this resurgence because there's always resurgence cannery row. we shouldn't be so nostalgic for something that had its time and place and before cannery row, you know, this was a fishing village, too. so we need to look at all those incarnations as as what they are. they're transformations that people make for a variety of reasons and you know, and now of course in the covid-19 epidemic the whole tourist industry in monterey is is suffering so it may be reincarnated again into something else. i don't feel pain when i see that i just it is what it is and
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we just accept now lynn asks the following question. she said you said that one interviewee felt that steinbeck steinbeck ruined in the community. what do you think she meant by that? i heard that a lot because he portrayed it. lazy and they saw industrialization as a good thing as a beautiful thing not and they didn't they she didn't like they didn't like the fact that he portrayed them the people of monterey as this kind of collection of lackadaisical lazy people on the margins, and that's basically what people objected to that you know, and i i don't know.
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nobody likes steinbeck until they loved steinbeck. so all over the peninsula. he was not the favorite person until quite recently. he's now accepted and renowned and even though he won a pulitzer even though he won he was a you know, he's an icon but in the context of his own place, he was treated not so not so well and that includes salinas too. so we see a resurgence of interest in steinbeck. we see more of an acceptance. of his view as his view. and i think that that's the important thing he wasn't wrong he just had his view and it was different from the view from the cannery floor so we're we're coming up on our time limit so i'm going to put to the two last questions if you could answer
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one has to do with if there's still a persistence of the and again using the term and quotation marks matriarchy of sicilian families and monterey is it still that case or has that changed and then there's a question about doc ricketts lab and whether it's you know there's a commitment to keep it going or what do you know about the status of that so those will be the last two questions okay so yes. yes, sicilian families are still centered on women and families and known as and doc rickets ricketts lab turned into a place where people gathered for, you know entertainment. in fact one of my good friends parents were part of that trans. of the lab into a kind of a club for old-time montereyans and
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those kinds of structures are public history structures and they're often. the subject of great debate do we tear them down? do we preserve them? where's the money going to come from? so it still exists a lot of the houses on cannery row are still there. there are some things that are unchanged and you know it it's a matter of public debate and money do women go out on the boats these days if in oh, yeah. yes. yes women, but they did they didn't in those days. yeah or no. okay. no, no. so carol, you'll have to look at these comments yourself. you'll see a lot of people really enjoyed your talk very much and thought you did an excellent job. and so there's a lot of interesting people you brought out a lot of people talking about their own experiences growing up in that area. so you might want to put them down you might want to put them
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down as a potential interviewees again work with marco. you're watching american history tv every weekend on c-span 3 explore our nation's past american history tv on c-span 3 created by america's cable television companies and today we're brought to you by these television companies who provide american history tv to viewers as a public service. in washington dc ruthless fanatic violence erupted in the halls of congress three men and a woman believed to be members of the puerto rican nationalist gang that in november 1950 attempted the assassination of president truman opened fire from the visitor's gallery of the house of representatives. have congressman were hit ben f jensen of iowa clifford davis of
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tennessee kenneth roberts of alabama george h. felon of maryland and albert bentley of michigan who was seriously injured. observers noted the attack came as the enter american conference opened in venezuela and it suggested the motive may have been to arouse anti-united states feeling and latin america through an act of apparently blind violence carefully calculated to inflame america's relations with her neighbors. estimates of the numbers of shots fired range from 15 to 30 and each bullet hole found as a grim reminder to those who were present of the terrible surprise attack. the gang seized by a shark bystanders as they entered their guns was held at police headquarters as a widespread search was launched for others who shared in the plot two irving forests, raphael miranda,
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mrs. lolita lebron andre cordero the gun wielders and to their accomplices goes the evil distinction of having perpetrated a criminal outrage almost unique in america's history. what and violence that shocked and stirred the nation? if you like american history tv keep up with us during the week on facebook twitter and youtube learn about what happened this day in history and see preview clips of upcoming programs follow us at c-spanhistory. visit c-span's new online store at to check out the new c-span products and with the 170th congress in session. we're taking pre-orders for the congressional directory every c-span shop purchase helps support c-span's non-profit operations shop today at
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next on the presidency as president biden begins his new administration. we look back to past presidential inaugurations and transitions. first white house historical association historians matthew costello and colleen shogan. look at the five most noteworthy inaugural addresses in american history featured are the speeches of thomas jefferson abraham lincoln franklin d roosevelt, john f. kennedy and ronald reagan. five minutes, we'll hear about the transitions and inaugurations of ronald reagan and barack obama from officials in their administrations the white house historical association hosted both of these events and provided the video. today we'll be joined by dr. colleen shogan who joined the white house historical association in the winter of 2020 after almost 15 years of federal government service. she previously worked in the united states senate and as a senior executive at the library of congress. colleen is the vice chair of t


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