'A Menacing Eruption'

"Is there not a prima facie case against the Italians? ...Is not every Italian who descends shipboard...a menace to our industrial interests?" —Boston Daily Advertiser, April 10, 1882

As Tommaso Juglaris pursued his career in the United States prejudice against Italian immigrants was palpable. It increased throughout the 1880s as more Italians arrived on American shores, settling in cities like New York and Boston. The objection to Italian immigration was multi-fold. There was rampant concern that Italian immigrants would not be able to meld with a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant American culture because of different cultural values, engrained temperament, limited education, and an overarching fealty to the Pope and Roman Catholicism. Because they were willing to work for lower wages, Italian immigrants were also seen as a threat to the security and well-being of more well-established American laborers.

Resentment towards immigration by Italians and others sometimes reared its head in surprising quarters. For example, the late nineteenth-century feminist Olympia Brown, who was popular in enlightened Boston circles, considered it unfair that less educated, newly-minted Americans, albeit men, could receive the privileges of citizenship, including the right to vote, denied to educated, native-born women. As a women’s rights activist and the first woman to be ordained for the ministry by a national denomination, the Reverend Brown joined labor leaders and fellow Protestant clergy in condemning immigration from Italy and elsewhere as a “menacing eruption” that was subversive to American democracy and its established institutions. In an address entitled On the Foreign Menace (1889), Brown vehemently declared: “…there are in the United States three times as many American-born women as the whole foreign population, men and women together, so that the vote of women will eventually be the only means of overcoming this foreign influence and maintaining our free institutions. There is no possible safety for our free school, our free church or our republican government, unless women are given the suffrage and that right speedily.”