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Ausonia Club Oral History Project oral histories

Identifier: SSC-MS-00412

Scope and Contents

This collection of 18 oral histories on audio cassette tapes, is supplemented by biographical material and photographs (some originals, but mostly reproductions). Five of the interviews have been translated from Italian to English transcriptions.

The interviews reveal the life stories of this group of Italian-American women in all their variety, from their experiences as immigrants (including their continuing ties to Italy), to their family responsibilities, education, and above all, work experiences in the United States. Ida Rescia captured the centrality of work--for most of them both within and outside of the home: "...I arrived on Thursday, Monday I went to work and...I always continued to work...." The interviews also document the importance of the Ausonia Club and the life-long friendships maintained within it. The collection is arranged alphabetically by interviewee. The transcriptions of the interviews with Tranquilla De Bastiani and Ida Rescia are indexed.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1965-1987


Language of Materials

English and Italian

Conditions Governing Access

The Ausonia Club Oral History materials are open for research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Some of the oral histories in this collection have restrictions on access. Please see the notes attached to an individual interview for information about restrictions that apply to it.

Conditions Governing Use

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to this collection. Copyright to materials created by others may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission must be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use."

Biographical / Historical

The Ausonia Club--one of the oldest women's clubs in Northampton, Massachusetts--was founded in 1921 by Anacleta Vezzetti, a member of the Smith College department of Italian. The purpose of the club was to bring together Italian-American immigrant women, many of whom were mill workers, in order to keep alive the traditions, language, and culture of their native land; and to help the members meet the challenges of living in this country. Over the years the Ausonia Club--whose name is taken from the poetic designation for the prehistoric nucleus of the Italian people--met once a month in the homes of its members to read, study, and help others by making contributions to the city's charities and to victims of disasters in Italy and elsewhere. With the passing of time, the Ausonia membership expanded to include non-Italian women with an interest in the political and cultural affairs of Italy. In 1951, Vezzetti passed the torch of the club's leadership to Helene Cantarella, who remained its "scribe" until 1993. In 1959 the group established the Ausonia Club Prize for the best essay on a subject related to Italian culture written by a student at St. Michael's High School. After St. Michael's closed, the prize was awarded to a student at Northampton High School. The Club also established the Anacleta C. Vezzetti Prize Fund at Smith College in 1976. The prize is awarded the senior who writes the best paper in Italian on any aspect of Italian civilization.

The Ausonia Club Oral History Project was inaugurated by Lella Gandini in 1984, and carried out with the help of Gisele L'Italien for the next four years. The two women conducted two or more interviews with six of the remaining Ausonia Club members, Silvia Viola Aprile (1905- ), Tranquilla Anna De Bastiani (1904- ), Lucrezia Bellantuono Duseau, (1917- ), Ida Lossani Rescia (1889-1987), Vittoria Giacomina Savino (1898-1987), and Mariannina Grimaldi Venturo (1906- ). Ida Rescia's son, Richard, and Lucrezia Bellantuono Duseau's brother, Vito Bell, were also interviewed. The aim of the project was to preserve the experience of a group of small-town Italian-American women, since most work of this sort has been focused upon immigrants to large urban areas. Lella Gandini, herself Italian-born and raised, brought to the project extensive knowledge of Italian dialects, and experience studying Italian-American women and conducting oral history interviews. Gisele L'Italien, who holds a B.A. in sociology from Smith College, conducted interviews in the course of her studies and is also fluent in Italian.


1.604 linear feet (4 containers)


The mission of the Ausonia Club was to preserve Italian traditions in America, as well as offer support to the community. This collection includes interviews of the six female Ausonia Club members, as well as two male relatives. For each subject there are audiotapes and transcripts of the interviews, some in Italian with English translations. There is also a small amount of biographical material, correspondence, and photographs.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Lella Gandini and Gisele L'Italien donated these materials to the Sophia Smith Collection in several installments between 1987 and 1993.

Related Material

Related materials located in the Ausonia Club Records.

Processing Information

Processed by Burd Schlessinger.

Ausonia Club Oral History Project oral histories
Finding Aid
Burd Schlessinger
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-09-23: mnsss123 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:10-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2020-05-14: Updated oral history interviews (8) with access and use notes.

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063