The Mother Cabrini Conundrum - JuniperCivic.com
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Originally published in the December 2019 Juniper Berry Magazine

The Mother Cabrini Conundrum

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was born on July 15, 1850 in a small town outside of Milan, Italy. She was inspired by stories of missionaries to travel the world, spreading the word of God. Due to her frail health, she was denied acceptance to a traveling religious order. She eventually started her own and was told by Pope Leo XIII to travel west to attend to the Italian immigrants in America.

She built schools and cared for orphans in poverty-stricken New York City. Word had traveled of her beating the tremendous odds around her and she was called to continue her mission in a variety of different countries. She remained active up until her death and was canonized by Pope Pius XII. She is known as the patron saint of immigrants.

Mother Cabrini, America's first saint and notable member of the Italian American community in New York, topped the voting for the She Built NYC Project. The initiative, spearheaded by New York City's first lady, Chirlane McCray, was meant to boost the presence of statues honoring important females in NYC history. Mother Cabrini was far ahead of the game, capturing 219 votes sitting safely atop the list according to the New York Post.

This apparently wasn't enough proof for McCray, who decided to overlook what New Yorkers wanted and picked her own influential female choice to build a statue of. Instead of Cabrini, seven other women were chosen who didn't break the top seven in the poll. It seems that McCray feels that she knows who should be honored, not New Yorkers, as if we can't make any decisions for ourselves.

We often tend to forget that Italian Americans were targets of constant prejudice, violence, and unfair assumptions. There was still not a formal apology or proclamation of innocence for the Sacco and Vanzetti injustice. Louisiana only recently apologized for the murder of eleven Italian Americans in retaliation for the death of a police chief in 1891. This is still known to be the largest single mass lynching in United States history.

New York City has the largest Italian American population in the entire country and North America. We constantly are subjected to improper Hollywood stereotypes and comparisons to depictions that just aren't true. There were no cries for change, or protests because of the lack of apologies, there was only standing about the fray. The Italian people ignored this lack of respect, and instead chose to put their country forward.

More than 600,000 Italian Americans were directly affected by hurtful policies that directly targeted them, yet this didn't affect the enrollment of Italian American soldiers during World War II. It is estimated that 1.5 million Italian Americans served in World War II, with 14 receiving the medal of honor.

When Mother Cabrini was snubbed, the first thing I asked myself was, What about the contributions Italian Americans have made to American society?

Yes, everyone needs a turn to be honored and put forward. America is a country of different ethnicities with meaningful contributions by all. But, it's still hard not to smell the stink of this rotten situation.

The figure of Mother Cabrini not only promotes the acceptance of Italian Americans, but Italian American women. The whole point of the project was to honor notable women, and Mother Cabrini made an impact in a variety of communities in New York including, Italian Americans, women, American Catholics and the poor.

The more popular and influential the female figure is, the more impact it will make. The more impact the statue makes, the more recognition it gives to female New Yorkers who are to be honored. It is not up to McCray to choose who New Yorkers want to honor; it is up to New Yorkers, and they chose Mother Cabrini in a landslide.

December 2019 Juniper Berry Magazine

December 2019 Table of Contents