Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tartaglia the Midwife

Dedicated with love to my grandmother, Rita Rosaio, the strongest woman I know

I’ve often wondered what day-to-day life must have been like for our great-grandparents. My great-grandmother was always quick to remind us that she worked as hard as her husband to provide for her family. There was the work on the farm and at the farmer’s market in Wilmington, but also a hundred things around the house to keep my great-grandmother busy. The Italian families at Squirrel Run were generally quite large, our grandmothers and great-grandmothers were up early in the morning getting the children their breakfast and sending them off to school. The chores that followed must have seemed endless, everything was to be done by hand as there were no washing machines, dishwashers or vacuum cleaners at Squirrel Run. In addition, many of our great-grandmothers kept boarders, took in laundry or worked in varying domestic capacities for the DuPonts and other affluent families in the area.

In the early years at Squirrel Run, it wasn’t a doctor that was called in when a new baby was due to arrive - it was Tartaglia the Midwife. Maria Tartaglia delivered many of the little Giusvallini babies that were born during the early years at Squirrel Run. Like the women whose babies she delivered, Maria was a native of Italy. She was born May 30, 1885 in the town of Lama dei Peligni, which is located in the province of Chieti in the Abruzzo region of Italy. When she was about 12 years old, Maria’s family immigrated to Rio de Janiero, Brazil, where she lived for six or seven years until the family came to the United States in April, 1903. The Tartaglia family settled in Wilmington’s Little Italy, and she became well-known in the area as a midwife to many of the local Italian women. In 1907, Maria married Lama dei Peligni native Antonio DiBenedetto and by him she had several children. As her own large family continued to grow, Maria was gradually unable to continue her services as a midwife and the good Dr. Meredith Iver Samuel took her place tending the childbearing needs of the Italian women at Squirrel Run.

Maria (Tartaglia) DiBenedetto lived a long life among the Italian community she had served as a young woman in Wilmington, she died on January 9, 1978 at the age of 92 years. It is noteworthy that the hands of a strong Italian woman brought the first generation of Giusvallini-Americani into the world. We gratefully remember Tartaglia the Midwife, and all our brave Italian grandmothers and great-grandmothers, whose struggles only made them stronger.

In the picture: My great-grandmother, Giuseppina (Pesce) (Perrone) Rosaio and her daughters, Elsie (b. 1915) and Anne (b. 1918).

1 comment:

  1. could you let me know more about dr meredith iver samuel? i believe i am a decendant. please reply to