Aunt Rose Curcio’s glove industry career

Third in a series on my Italian-American great grandaunt Rose Curcio of Gloversville, Fulton County, New York, who died 15 years ago this month at the age of 105.

The Oct. 2001 obituary of my Aunt Rosie Curcio contains not only her brief history but a portrait of the changing role of women in the 20th Century. The second paragraph describes her education and her glove industry career.

By: Boston Public Library
Main Street, Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. Aunt Rosie took a new path open to women in the 20th Century when she attended the Gloversville Business School, which prepared her for a long, productive glove industry career By: Boston Public Library

A lifelong resident and a graduate of the Gloversville Business School, she was employed as a secretary and bookkeeper at the former Hilts Willard Glove Manufacturers in Gloversville until her retirement at age 75.

New prospects for women

When Aunt Rosie was born in 1896, women still wore floor-length dresses. They could not vote and their lives were circumscribed in many ways — both socially and legally.

But social movements in which women played a leading role — from the fight to abolish slavery to the suffrage movement demanding a woman’s right to vote — opened new possibilities for women at the dawn of the 20th Century.

I would love to have been in the household of my great, great grandparents Antonio and Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio when the decision was made that Aunt Rosie — one of their younger daughters — would to go to business school.

Aunt Rosie goes to school

Did Rosie ask to go or did her parents suggest it? Did economic necessity drive the decision or was she ambitious? However it came about, off to school she went — and by the time of the 1920 U.S. Census (excerpted below) Rosie, 23, was working as a stenographer in a glove factory office.

1920 U.S. Census of the Curcio household at 128 East Fulton St. in Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.    Source: Family Search
Person No. Name Role Age Occupation
33 Antonio Curcio Head 66 None
34 Antoinette Curcio Wife 61 None
35 John Curcio Son 26 Chauffeur, Vegetable Truck
36 Rose Curcio Dau 23 Stenographer, Glove Factory Office
37 Josephine Curcio Dau 17 Glove Maker, Glove Shop

The census also shows several boarders living in the Curcio’s 128 East Fulton Street home — the Santos family and  Alexander S. Davey, a baker — likely providing rental income.

Family head Dean P. Santos worked as a junk collector in a junk shop. He may have worked in the shop then operated next door by my great grandfather Peter [DiLorenzo] Laurence, whose wife Mamie was the Curcio’s oldest daughter.

So Aunt Rosie’s income, enhanced by her education, was surely helpful to her family. She was later promoted to bookkeeper and decided to keep working beyond her retirement age.

“Why work so long?” my mom and I asked her during an oral history interview in 1992. Aunt Rosie told us she felt good, so why not? And besides, what would she do with herself if she was not working? Spoken like a working woman proud of her career!

Up next, Aunt Rosie’s family and social life. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Aunt Rose Curcio: An 1890’s daughter

Second in a series on my Italian-American great grandaunt Rose Curcio of Gloversville, Fulton County, New York, who died 15 years ago this month at the age of 105.

On 11 Oct. 2001, a family friend sent my mother an non-sourced obituary of my great grandaunt Rose Curcio. It’s not long, as obituaries go — a bit longer than the Schenectady Sunday Gazette version I found online — but its few paragraphs describe a life unusual for a woman born in the late 1800s. What more could I find out about her?,-Fulton-County,-New-Yo?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:Gloversville%2C%2BNew%2BYork;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=0&trs=1#
Map of Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. (1868). Click here to enlarge. As my Italian and German immigrant ancestors arrived to work in the glove and leather industry, the surnames on this map changed. The Curcio family lived on East Fulton Street near the corner of Wells Street, on the right side of this map. Source: David Rumsey Historical Map Collection

Miss Rose Curcio, 105, formerly of Gloversville, died Saturday morning [4 Oct. 2001] at the Fulton County Residential Health Care Facility, where she resided since 1989. Born in Gloversville on July 23, 1896, the daughter of Antonio and Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio, she was one of 15 children.

The Curcio family in 1900

Aunt Rosie was a younger sister of my great grandmother Mary “Mamie” (Curcio) Laurence — who was known as “Little Grandma” in our family because, like Rosie, she stood barely five feet tall.

Little Grandma was the oldest, and Aunt Rosie was part of a younger group of siblings. Rosie, at age 4, was listed for the first time with the Curcio family in the 1900 U.S. Census for Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y., which is excerpted below.

1900 U.S. Census : Curcio Household at 128 East Fulton Street, Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y.       Source: FamilySearch
Person No. Name Role Gender Age Birthplace
78 A [Antonio] Curcio Head M 35 Italy
79 Anthontia Curcio [Antoinette] Wife F 38 Italy
80 Mamie Curcio Dau F 16 New York
81 Mike Curcio Son M 15 New York
82 Julia Curcio Dau F 13 New York
83 Millie Curcio Dau F 10 New York
84 Angel Curcio Dau F 7 New York
85 Jennie Curcio Dau F 5 New York
86 Rosie Curcio Dau F 4 New York
87 Annie Curcio Dau F 1 New York

Born in 1896 to parents who had survived a brief residence in Manhattan’s notorious Five Points area, Rose was a young child at the dawn of the 20th Century — a girl to whom new possibilities would open as she reached young adulthood.

She went on to lead a far different life than Little Grandma, her oldest sister. More on this in the next post.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Aunt Rose Curcio: A life spanning three centuries

First in a series on my Italian-American great grandaunt Rose Curcio of Gloversville, Fulton County, New York, who died 15 years ago this month at the age of 105.

On Oct. 20, 2001, one of my Mom’s cousins wrote to tell her about the passing of Aunt Rose Curcio — a younger sister of my Italian-American great grandmother Mary “Mamie” (Curcio) Laurence.
A birds eye view of Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y.  My great grandaunt Rose Curcio lived here for all 105 years of her rich, full life — working in a glove company office until she was 75 and devoting herself to her siblings and their families. Photo: City of Gloversville Historic Photos

Dear Peggy, I didn’t know if anyone told you that Aunt Rose Curcio passed away on Oct. 4, 2001. She was 105 years old. Her death was more or less due to old age.

She had lived through 3 centuries and was the oldest resident at the Infirmary. Her mind was sill okay up until about a month before she died.

She had a picture of you with her on her bulletin board. Thought you might want it. Hope this letter finds you in good health.

A cherished family visit

Tucked in with the note was a photo I took of my mom with Aunt Rosie (then a spry 95) when we stopped to visit her during a 1992 family history trip to my mother’s hometown — Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y.

We spent a couple of hours with Rosie that day — laughing and reminiscing as we interviewed her about the Italian-American branch of our family — and later mailed her the snapshot. She must have cherished the time spent with us, because she kept that photo in a place of pride until the end of her life.

The secret to a long, full life

Born at the end of the 19th Century, Aunt Rosie Curcio lived through the entire 20th Century and witnessed the dawn of the 21st Century. She was the longest living member of her family of origin –and of any of my relatives on either side.

During our visit, we talked a lot about Rosie’s parents; her large, extended family; and daily life in the lovely Mohawk Valley town situated south of New York’s Adirondack Mountains.

However, not until I read  her obituary did I learn more about Rosie herself. Carried in the Schenectady, N.Y., Sunday Gazette, the 7 Oct. 2001, the obituary spoke eloquently of her life, her work and her social engagement.

What was the secret of Rosie’s longevity and upbeat spirit? That’s something I hope to explore in the next few posts.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Family Recipe Friday: Boom’s Instant Jubilee Sauce

Today is Family Recipe Friday in the genealogy blogging world, which brings to mind a simple, elegant recipe from my maternal grandmother.

My mom’s mother Liz (Stoutner) Laurence was fairly modern as grandmothers went. Just 45 when I was born, her lifetime spanned most of the 20th Century. She came of age and married in the Roaring Twenties and was still pretty active when I hit my teens in the Sixties.

Boom's recipe box.
My maternal grandmother’s recipe box. Boom was an artist who taught Early American Tole Painting. She hand painted her tin recipe box in a style that reflected her German-American heritage. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Unlike my friends’ grandmothers, who appeared more traditional in their sensible house dresses, my grandmother was tall, trim and stylish — a clothes horse from a young age who would not be caught dead without a coordinated outfit, jewelry and every hair in place.

We all called her Boom — from my childhood mispronunciation of Grandma as Booma — and the family nickname seemed to capture her outgoing, no-nonsense personality.

An elegant shortcut

In her early years, when she was raising her daughters (my mom Peggy and my aunt Rita), Boom probably did a fair amount of old-style cooking from scratch — because she always turned out fantastic family meals for the holidays.

But by the time I came along, she was all about shortcuts and time-saving recipes. Boom was an early adopter of Jell-O, which made its way to the table in a variety of flavors as both a dessert and a salad. And she was always on the lookout — in newspapers, magazines and from friends and family — for quicker ways to make the old standbys.

Instant Jubilee Sauce recipe handwritten by my grandmother. This simple, elegant recipe still works today, producing a sauce just as impressive as its more complicated counterparts. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Enter Boom’s hand-written recipe for Instant Jubilee Sauce, which I found tucked away in her carefully painted recipe box (she was also an artist who taught Early American Tole Painting.)

Did she copy it from a printed recipe? From a cookbook? Or was it dictated by a friend or relative? I have no way of knowing. But typical of my grandmother’s style, the recipe is as simple as it is elegant, and I decided to make it for the holidays last year.

A ruby red holiday treat

The key to to the recipe’s success is finding just the right cherry preserves — dark, sweet and jewel-colored — so the finished sauce is a deep, ruby red when it cascades down the vanilla ice cream over which it is served.

I tried it out at my annual trim-a-tree party in December, to the oohs and aahs of my gathered guests. With plenty of port still on hand, I made another batch and brought it to a neighbor’s New Year’s Eve party.

“I hope you didn’t have to spend too much time in the kitchen cooking this sauce,” she said, apologizing for the late notice about her impromptu get together.

I had to smile. This was just the sort of comment my grandmother would have loved to hear about a shortcut recipe that could not be distinguished from its more complicated counterparts.

And preparing and serving Boom’s Instant Jubilee Sauce was a special treat for me — like having her along for the holidays one more time!

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Sharing the legacy of childless relatives

As I research and write about my family history, I come across collateral relatives on both sides of my family — some single, some married — who had no children to pass on their legacy.
Gloversville Business School (1900-1949). My great grand-aunt Rosie Curcio, a single career woman born in 1906, trained here and worked in glove factory offices until her retirement at age 70. Photo: Front Page Gloversville

Far from being lonely without offspring, these relatives often led varied and interesting lives while maintaining ties with their families of origin.

During the 2016 A to Z blogging challenge, I wrote about several of them as a way of honoring and remembering their lives, since they have no descendants to take on the task.

Alas, that post received few visits. So here, again, are a few of these relatives who stand out — a couple of whom I have written about before.

Aunt Rita: bloodbank professional

My mother’s sister, Rita Mary Laurence, left New York State for southern California in 1955 for a job as a blood bank technician. She worked in San Diego and Los Angeles, created an independent life for herself far from family, and even met Albert Schweitzer’s daughter when she toured the lab where Aunt Rita worked.

Aunt Rosie: glove factory office worker

Another of my maternal relatives, Rose Curcio, was also a single career woman in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. She was my great grandaunt — a younger sister of my maternal great grandmother Mamie (Curcio) Laurence.

Born into a huge Italian-American family in 1906 — to parents who survived early married life in Manhattan’s notorious Five Points area — Aunt Rosie studied at the Gloversville Business School, then worked in glove factory offices until her retirement at age 70.

Aunt Rosie helped support her family of origin during her working life — and gave money to her union family members when they were forced out on strike by the glove factory owners.

My mom and I interviewed Aunt Rosie in the early 1990s. Still sharp at 95, she shared what she knew about our common ancestors and painted a colorful picture of life in Gloversville’s Italian-American community. She remained close to her siblings and their families and lived to be 105.  There will be more on Aunt Rosie in future posts.

Uncle Fred: WW II veteran

And one holiday season I wrote about my uncle Frederic Mason Charboneau, one of my dad’s brothers, and his lively letters home during his U.S. Army service in WW II — to begin sharing his story since he and his wife had no children.

Who are the childless relatives in your family? What do you know about them? How did they interact with your direct ancestors? Their stories can provide a fuller picture of your ancestral background if you are willing to go look for them.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Growing family trees one leaf (and road trip) at a time