Hardworking Women Indeed

Italian Immigration to Canada

Between 1861 and 1981, approximately 700,000 Italians immigrated to Canada, with the largest wave of migration occurring primarily in two periods:  the early 1900s until World War I, and between 1950 and 1970.

The first phase consisted largely of peasants from southern Italy.  In the second phase after World War II, Canada emerged as a main destination for Italian immigrants, the majority of whom were small-scale farmers and agricultural labourers.  In this period, over 80 % of Italians entered Canada through the sponsorship of relatives.  It was natural that newcomers would put down roots in places where trusted relatives could help them find jobs and accommodations, and develop an understanding of mainstream Canadian society.

Italian women farmworkers

In Italy, the family was characterized as father-dominated and mother-centred, with the father as provider and the mother as nurturer.  Immigration led to changes in the typical Italian family structure, with an increasing number of women working outside of the home.

We invite you to learn more about the history of Italian women in Canada.  The following sections provide background information, orientation to the collection and opportunities to explore Italian materials stored on this website. The collection provides in-depth perspectives on the challenges and hopes of 20th century Italian women immigrants to Canada.