The First Chunk

Beginning to write this paper was more difficult than I had imagined due to its overwhelming nature. When I originally wrote the paper, I thought it was so terrible that it needed to be deleted completely. After erasing three hours of hard work, I had to put the pieces back together and start from scratch…again.

Initially, I was overwhelmed by the amount of research I had compiled already and how I would be able to put into words that anyone would ever want to read. Additionally, knowing I wouldn’t use a lot of background information, that I had once believed was crucial to the project, was painful because it felt incomplete. Therefore I had to keep in mind that I was not writing a book, but instead a chapter that encompasses something bigger. By reading through the already completed part of my introduction that was turned in two weeks ago, I was reminded of what my project is about: The Balbo Monument and fascism in the Italian American Chicago community. By redefining the idea of the “community,” I was able to narrow down pieces of evidence. I depended on the interpretations of the Catholic church and family life in Italian American culture in the 1930s. Because I was able to figure out a clear understanding of the generalized community, the paper began to write itself for the first time. By focusing on these two aspects of Italian American culture, the reactions to the gifted Balbo Monument and Balbo’s flight seemed to fit into place, along with newspapers from differing neighborhoods. 

Throughout Dr. Winling’s presentation, I noted his use of digital resources and how they assisted in the explanation of his thesis rather overtaking the entire production. In my own presentation, I was unsure of how to present my information with the assistance of these resources, instead of presenting them as my project. Dr. Winling’s presentation of his research of Chicago elections was extremely helpful, as well as discussing our projects at Uncommon Ground. His research was extremely well-examined and has encouraged me to work on additional context for my presentation, rather than viewing the project as a single paper. This all-encompassing view has helped me in working with and adding additional pieces to my first draft. 

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Bibliography Week

The last few weeks I’ve been piecing together my research sources, which has proved to be an unknowingly difficult task. I’ve centered my project on the question as to why countries go to extreme political ends in times of economic distress, with a focus on fascism during the Great Depression. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt initially took office in 1932 he brought his ideas for a government that would help the Americans affected by the Great Depression. While he’s remembered for the great things his New Deal legislation brought to the United States, his ideas brought criticism. Those afraid of the continuation of the post World War I economy that caused the stock market to crash in 1929, rejected the seemingly fascist policies that were rising around the world.

Primary Source Article:

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Fascism and the New Deal 

 

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Week 4 Reading: 

In Meg Jacobs, scholarly work ‘”How About Some Meat?”: The Office of Price Administration, Consumption Politics, and State Building from the Bottom Up, 1941-1946’ she examined the importance of local politics in the upheaval of a war economy in the midst and directly after the conflict ended. Her writing explores the programs that remained intact through the war after being presented to the nation in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. Below is my outline of how Jacobs chose to map her article out:

Introduction ·      Strong start with a great thesis statement –> establishing the importance of the agency in the New Deal legislature without giving away too many details until further in the paragraph

·      Introduction of Richard Nixon (a name everyone knows) to keep readers interested –> establish his dislike for the program and how it affected his own politics when he ran for president

·      3rd paragraph OPA is presented as one of the “strongest manifestations” –> great language

·      Jacobs set importance outside of WWII context à the agency helped with a debate over wages and prices –>  foreshadowing that the administration stayed intact after the war ended

·      Consumption helps the economy grow à weaved in very nicely –> propaganda during the war was set on trying to get the typical “American life” back and OPA helped with keeping prices and wages at a level where they were equally distributed

·      Notes on that the population couldn’t change the market to suit their needs exactly or forever –> OPA worked best when we were in the war and political needs were more reflective

·      OPA –> radical model of state management (government working with laborers and consumers = new social-liberal coalition)

·      Argument at end of introduction –> OPA was the reason OPA failed –> they tried to help too many people and cater to too many needs –> ended with 1946 meat packers strike –> “beefsteak elections” cost the Democrats in Congress and it went Republican for the first time since 1930

Office Price Administration ·      Created 1941 –> technical expertise and faith in the state allowed the office to run

·      Two main sources: 1) recalling experiences from WWI –> inflation threat when the unemployment rate was way too low and economy remained in a war production economy 2) came from policymakers that were convinced that pushing the government into American lives would be a way to promote a perfect vision of a political economy

·      Causes of the Great Depression –> underconsumption

·      Jacobs begins working the “characters” into her article –> Leon Henderson, OPA first administrator –> focused on consumer relationships with New Deal legislation

·      Henderson –> a fan of income distribution –> 1942 Keynesian economist work together to figure out General Maximum Price Regulation (Gen. Max.) and sent it out to merchants to approve –> they approved and it was working –> each product would pay its own way

·      Gen. Max. eventually led to issues with increasing inflation

·      Use of pictures/primary sources

·      OPA used women volunteers to form grassroots organizations and teach others how to shop in a savvy way

·      1943 Chester Bowles new administration –> volunteers increase –> formed women into unions

·      Women were seen as stabilizers at home and for the community at this time

·      Perfect blend of consumption and patriotism

·      As the article continues Jacobs breaks down each group that benefitted or were involved in some way with the OPA, each with a person spearheading the paragraph and how it impacted each group

End of OPA ·      United Steel Worker Strikes –> 30 cent wage increase –> offered steel price increase

·      Truman vetoed the end of OPA and food and living prices soared

·      Public wanted OPA and rejected higher prices without higher wages

·      Public left OPA behind when they couldn’t get any meat without the prices being ridiculously high

·      The people that supported the big government ideals and the intervention were now calling for the end of OPA

·      Because of the meat riots, Democrats lost control of Congress again

Conclusion ·      OPA gave consumers a sense of entitlement that they didn’t need

·      Many voters stayed home –> OPA once mobilized the public, but it now almost discouraged them from voting altogether

·      OPA represented the strength in the states and how public policy can make or break a society

·      OPA –> high standards of living that workers still rightfully demand and expect

·      Moving local politics into familial areas can cause great waves of political momentum

 

After reading through Meg Jacob’s fascinating article on OPA, I’ve picked up some interesting things she used in her writing. In her introduction, she didn’t saturate the opening paragraphs with lengthy facts or long winded statistics. Instead, she brought up the importance of the administration and why it came to be, which naturally flowed into the fuller description of the agency and how it helped the American people. When Jacobs expanded into her paragraphs, or should I say “meat” of the article, she cited the reasoning behind the formation with an emphasis on events that happened a decade prior to the formation to bring the reader into the correct mindset. Additionally, while building OPA up, Jacobs mentioned their flaws and hinted towards many of their issues leading to the administration’s demise after WWII. Before bringing the reader into the final months of OPA’s life, she brought up many minority groups and major contributors from each to expand upon her idea that OPA affected everyone in the United States. Additionally, her placement of primary sources, which mostly consisted of government-run propaganda and instruction sheets, highlighted each point she made in a previous paragraph rather than making the article feel clunky. Finally, the fall of OPA and her conclusion tied together the entire journey the article took the reader on, from before the US was involved in WWII until the essential end of the New Deal Era. From Jacob’s article, I feel much more prepared for writing my own research analysis. I liked the way she structured her research and how she thoughtfully presented each piece of evidence without mashing historical facts together. I plan on looking back on Jacobs research and other articles we’ve been provided from last semester throughout my own writing process.

Italian Fascism in 20th Century Chicago

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Balbo Monument unveiling at the Italian Pavilion at the Century of Progress 

For the Ramonat Synopsium in April, I’ve chosen to showcase Italian Fascism in 20th Century Chicago with a focus on the Balbo Memorial and the city-wide reaction to the gift from Mussolini in 1933. As I delve farther into my research and understand Italo Balbo and his relation to the United States, the stain of fascism and American complacency comes to a front. After our in-class discussion last week about our individual projects, I’ve been able to ask myself and my project some questions. The importance of local politics in relation to national politics has become a major point of my research. I plan on using news articles and radio shows from the time to understand the perspective of a person in 1930s Chicago. Additionally, I will continue to look into the relationship between Mussolini and the Pope’s friendship and the effects of his support on the grand Italian Catholic community, both inside and outside of Italy.

  1. How did the unveiling of the Balbo Monument contribute to the furthering level of acceptance of Nazism and other far-right groups in 20th century Chicago?
  2. Did the Immigration Act of 1924 contribute to acceptance of the monument and fascism?
  3. Why would the city put the Gold Star Family Park, opened in 2006 to honor Chicago police officers who have died while on duty and Soldier Field, the world recognized field named in memoriam for the American soldiers who were killed in WWI, in such close proximity to the monument?
  4. Why is the monument still standing today and does Italian-American culture contribute to its placement and relevance?
  5. Finally, how did FDR’s presidency become iconic throughout history with the series of stains left on his terms with Japanese Internment Camps and working with, and meeting Italo Balbo, the head of the Blackshirts in Italy, without worldwide criticism?

While these questions definitely need to be narrowed down, as I dive into my research the question I routinely come back to is is why this happened. More specifically, how can we understand the reasons behind this structure to make sure a monument like this one can’t stand in Chicago, a city that prides itself on acceptance and liberalization.

 

 

Spring Research Project

This semester instead of exploring Catholicism and its effects on politics around the city of Chicago, we’ll be conducting a research project on the topic of our choosing. I have chosen to look into the religious and cultural ties to Chicago’s Balbo Monument and the relationship it had and continues to have, on the Italian Catholic population. The monument stands on the Lakefront Trail, not too far from Soldier Field. The monument is a large column dating back to over 2000 years and came from an ancient port in Rome. The large stature has become a controversial symbol of Fascism as it was a gift from Benito Mussolini to commemorate Italo Balbo’s trans-Atlantic flight to the Century of Progress World’s Fair. The gift had fascist wording placed on the front which was later removed by the recommendation of the post-WWII ambassador to the US from Italy after Mussolini’s death.

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The Balbo Monument 

Outside of the fascist ties through the wording on the Bablo Monument, Italo Balbo, whom the monument was honoring, was a prominent Italian Blackshirt. The Italian Blackshirts were a paramilitary wing of the National Fascist Party. To some, the monument represents the complicity the American government took place in at the beginning of fascism and Nazism before WWII broke out. Others were supportive of the gift because to them it represented growing relations between Italy and the United States. 

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Fascist wording on the Balbo Monument 

In recent years there has been a resurgence of calls to remove the monument altogether, in response to calls for Confederate monuments to be taken down from public areas and placed in museums. Bishop Gregg Greer from Chicago stated “Chicago stands with all the communities around the country, to stay monuments have to go, especially when they represent a racist history of America” in an ABC article from 2017.  Recognizing America’s racist past and tendency to be complicit in these actions around the globe have been a hot debate topic. In response, a defender of the monument in it’s standing, Lissa Druss, stated: “When Mussolini went pro-Nazi, Balbo said absolutely no way.”

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Chicagoians protesting at the monument in 2017 

Due to the new generation’s push to eliminate racist monuments from the past, there’s a growing amount of information on the topic of the Balbo Monument in Chicago’s Burnham Park. For my spring research project, I intend on using the varying research outlets that are offered throughout the city including many universities, institutions, and libraries. As this project progresses I look forward to refining my knowledge of these monuments that were once viewed as a positive relationship between two countries and how we interpret these monuments in the 21st century.

 

Week 15: ‘Inquiring Nuns’

“Are you happy?” This simple and yet poignant question is what Sisters Marie Arne and Mary Campion asked Chicagoans in the politically turbulent year of 1968. Inquiring Nuns, a film by Gordon Quinn, showcased the idea of what it means to be happy from a random sampling of people. Throughout the documentary, the audience was introduced to a man who expressed his affinity for Chicago sports, a couple who were happy to have raspberries, a child who was unhappy because she was in school, and a woman crying in the Art Institute due to her newfound loneliness. This wide array of people all found happiness and unhappiness within different things. When asked why they were happy, most people responded with personal connections, but when asked why they were unhappy they responded with international or national conflicts that don’t exactly affect them directly. Interestingly enough, many people tailored their answers based on the fact that two nuns were asking them the question, as participants mentioned their religiousness, or lack thereof when answering Sisters Marie Arne and Mary Campion.

 

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Inquiring Nuns theatrical release poster 

 

In week seven we explored the gendering of American Catholics and their politics. In Suellen Hoy’s “The Journey Out: The Recruitment and Emigration of Irish Religious Women to the United States” the importance of early waves of Irish women and their impact on American Catholicism were delved into. Hoy recognizes the crucial role the early nuns played in recruiting other young women and the importance of this ongoing cycle to uphold the Catholic role in American politics and social work. The first wave contributed to education along with the opening of “employment bureaus, houses for unwed mothers, makeshift hospitals for epidemic victims, and adult education courses for green immigrants.” (Hoy 83) Also in week seven, we examined Kathleen Bronson’s “Public Presence, Public Silence: Nuns, Bishops, and Gendered Space of Early Chicago.” She explored the role of Catholic nuns in Chicago during the Civil War. The nuns stepped outside of what a woman would do at the time and participated in the war effort by helping on the front lines and risking their lives to serve their country and fulfill their religious duty.

This semester we’ve focused on the importance of Catholicism in the foundation of the United States and moreover the significance of Catholic women in Chicago. These impressive women have contributed to the betterment of women and children in the city through social service and action, including education, orphanages, and women’s shelters. Sisters Marie Arne and Mary Campion contributed their time to this project to further understand and unpack why people are happy, which would align with their “Catholic duties.” Their selflessness is remembered fifty years after the documentary was released and their genuine interest in what makes people happy is reflective of their goodness and achieving their true religious potential through social activism and service. The readings from Hoy and Bronson both draw on the importance of early nuns and their ability to move an entire generation through education and general social service, which can be seen in the Inquiring Nuns film, making the audience ask one final question: “Am I happy?”

Week 14: Catholics and the Politics of Social Welfare

This week I looked through Loyola’s Women and Social Justice’s online archive and after analyzing our assigned readings the pivotal role of Catholic women stood out. Throughout the semester these women have been important to Chicago’s history and the church’s. When we toured around the city for Open House Chicago, I went to the Catholic Charities, founded in 1881, where the building served as a maternity ward, orphanage, and a place for emergency food and housing for women. While searching through the online archive I found an interesting newspaper article written about Renee Golden, a Catholic nun and social activist. Unfortunately, the database has no information on when or where this article was published, but it’s housed in Renny Golden’s Paper, a collection of documents from 1969-2003.

One is both walking toward a future in which there is .justice for all and walking away from things too. Every step that you take, walking away, is scary, but more and more liberating.’ 

Renee Golden had a unique story of activism that stemmed from her entrance into the Dominican order of nuns when she was only nineteen years old. She left her fiance and taught the first grade at the peak of the Civil Rights movement, which caused her to question her own involvement in the convent and pushed her into doing more for people on a larger scale. Golden’s goal was to “to find God among the poor,” and in order to do so, she had to “chose the street over the antiseptic and timid discipline that protected me [Golden] from the world.” Golden left the convent and returned to the West Side of Chicago to teach, but eventually decided on educating her student’s parents that hadn’t received their high school diplomas. After success in Chicago, Golden moved to Central America to assist with the troubles facing the citizens due to “the killing of thousands of peasants and organizers by the military in El Salvador.” She assisted with the creation of crisis centers in synagogues and churches for fleeing Guatemalan and Salvadoran refugees in the United States.

In 1985 Golden went to El Salvador to interview women on the front line of the resistance movement. She was inspired by their different occupations, they were “political organizers, pastoral workers, martyrs, and militants,” they were “under great risk, talking to a North American, so the narratives had to be gathered clandestinely.” After Golden’s interviews with these brave women on the front lines, she wrote a book about the resistance movement, “The Hour of the Poor, The Hour of Women” in 1991. Since then she’s published books on children in the American social welfare program and the effects it’s had on the youth. Golden, at the time of the article publication, was a professor at Northeastern Illinois University and encouraged her students to become social activists to reignite their vision of humanity.

In conclusion, Renee Golden was a woman that found her humanity within the church but understood the need to expand her knowledge to the rest of the world to ensure their own safety and education. Much like the nuns that founded the Catholic Charities in 1881, they expanded their humanity to the women within the community to secure their futures.

Sources

Hamburg, Gail Vida. “Golden- ‘A Quest for Justice’” Feminism in Chicago: Connie Kiosse, content.library.luc.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/coll7/id/17/rec/5.

Week 12: When Did Catholic Politics Become National?

In the United States in the 1960s some of the most important movements were going on and with the help of the country’s first Catholic President running for office, the barriers seemed to be breaking even further. John F. Kennedy would’ve been incredibly shunned only 40 years prior due to his Catholic identity. While American Catholics were happy with JFK’s election bid, people practicing other religions weren’t. Retrospectively, we’re able to see that his speeches given to many different churches, including Protestant, helped win the Presidency. In a piece published in 1960, the American people were asked about their voting preferences and looking back at their reactions to a Catholic candidate is astounding and expected all at once. One of the first ideas that the article brings to light is that Kennedy’s Catholicism will make a difference in the upcoming election. Other worries included Kennedy’s “mushrooming” or the idea that he grew politically too fast. After looking through the article published by Stewart Alsop in the Saturday Evening Post, it’s clear that hostilities towards Catholics were still prevalent and still a deciding factor for many. While we like to agree that anti-Catholic sentient has somewhat come to a halt in American politics, Mitt Romney was the target in the 2012 Presidential election for his Mormon beliefs. While he gained quite a bit of momentum, he also received endless pushback from the American people for his religious affiliation. In conclusion, Alsop’s Saturday Evening Post publication, “Nixon or Kennedy?”, made clear that anti-Catholicism was a deciding factor in which person the American people were going to vote for.