About The Project

A note from Laura Libralato, the Director & Curator of The Quiet Immigrant Project:
“The theme and purpose of this project was – and continues to be – to highlight and pay tribute to the Italian women of immigration. With a series of guiding questions and conversations in both Italian and English we begin; and the compelling and vivid recollections are documented.

It has been quite the ride of emotions as we lifted this project from a concept in 2010, to interviews that began in 2018, and finally a concrete exhibit and production in 2022. The stories shared have been remarkable, unique, tragic, comic…a ‘full Italian Opera’. I was humbled and honoured by the trust shared with their most intimate and deeply personal details.

This project goes beyond nostalgia, and the continued interest – something we had hoped from the onset – has generated impactful conversations around our matriarchs…le nostre Femmine Forti!”

The Quiet Immigrant Project The Story and Concept
From tip to toe, from the island of Sicily and from the small mountainous towns and villages, le femmine forti immigrated.

For many, the journey’s starting point began before even arriving in Canada, their new homeland. For many – 9, 10, 12 days of turbulent travel, celebrating an 18th birthday at sea, kneeling and spontaneously praying for physical and emotional comfort.

Pier 21 served for many, not all, as their first secure ‘point of entry’. Leaving behind family, dear friends, pets, a favoured bicycle, a sewing machine, language, books, food, a Fiat Cinquecento, a cherished armadio, and bringing along their skills as couture seamstresses, hair stylists, teachers, and culinary connoisseurs to roll up their sleeves both figuratively and literally as they worked in manufacturing factories of spices, wool, bras, toys, uniforms, barbeques, and cookies, as well as cleaning and caring for other womens’ homes and children. 

‘La mancanza’ for home transitioned into a new home sweet or not so home sweet home, now for many for well over 60 years — in towns, cities, and provinces across this country. The lifelong journey is the immigrant experience.  

A homage to the brave Italian women who immigrated to Canada after WW2 and through sheer strength of character,  with neither fanfare or complaint wove their way into the fabric of society. Their stories of strength, courage, determination, and sacrifice are sure to move, amuse, and captivate.  A multifaceted, multimedia, and multilayered legacy piece, The Quiet Immigrant Project was a 2 month-long exhibit – April 24 – June 26, 2022 – onsite at the Columbus Centre. 

With purpose and grace we honour, pay tribute, and celebrate this generation of ‘journey women.’  ‘Stories are the proof of life, sharing is necessary: mamma and papà lontano, cara figlia, “aiutati che Dio t’aiuta.” Family was grounding, the church was saving and comforting after all ‘il signore lo sa’, and property was security. 

Le Femmine Forti worked hard and were honest, shared coats, wondered if the moon was the same, ‘castagne era il nostro pane’ (chestnuts was our bread), made do with iceberg lettuce – ‘if I can’t cry, I can’t eat’.

A fully interactive and viscerally charged exhibit, The Quiet Immigrant Project is a conduit, the collector of matriarchal memories and ‘le storie delle donne immigrate’. 

A Case For Support

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The Quiet Immigrant Project Videos

The Quiet Immigrant Project Promo Video – English with English subtitles
The Quiet Immigrant Project Promo Video – Italian with English subtitles
The Quiet Immigrant Project Promo Video – Italian with French subtitles

Do you know an Italian woman who immigrated to Canada post WW2?

Please fill out our Google form to connect about her story.


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