Monday, July 21, 2014

Christina Prinzo Famoso - A Wonderful Mother

Christina Prinzo as a young lady around 1906
Christina and her brother Charles 1905
Christina Prinzo Famoso and her son John 1911
Christina Prinzo Famoso

On her birth certificate, her name is listed as Crestina Maria Giuseppa Luisa Prinzo.  Christina was born in Harlem, Manhattan, New York on June 16, 1892.  She was my grandmother.  I never knew her but by all accounts she was a wonderful mother and grandmother.  Sadly, she only got to know one of her grandchildren.  She died on April 24, 1943.  Her life was short and heartbreaking.  She was a beautiful young girl who met her husband to be at a funeral before she was even 16 years old. Luigi and Christina were married on April 23, 1908 when she was not quite 16 years old.  Her parents were from “the other side” but she was a ‘Merican.  Grandma Christine only went to school up to the 4th grade.  That was probably quite a bit more schooling than either of her parents had. Francesco Prinzo and Maria Giuseppa Luisi were farmers back in Italy.  Her father Frank became a laborer to support his family in the United States.  When she met and married her husband Luigi she actually gave up her citizenship for him. For a very short period of time, that is what happened when an American woman would marry a foreign-born man. Christina must have thought he was so handsome and well-educated.  I’m sure she must have admired him, at least at first.  I don’t believe that her love could have lasted too long because he turned out to be a selfish husband.  She gave birth to ten children but only 9 survived to become adults.  That was pretty good for the times they lived in.  Her 4th child, Joseph, died of enteritis at the age of 7 months.  

I know that Christina could sew and cook.  I also know that she worked hard and was a very good mother. She did not have much extra time to tell her children stories or play games with them.  She simply had to make sure they would survive in the world. 

According to a story my mother heard at Christina's husband Luigi's funeral, Christina had to go to her sister-in-law Loretta and beg her to get money from Luigi for food.  This story was told by Luigi's sister Loretta.

My father told me that he helped his mother wash clothes on a washboard.  I can’t even imagine how difficult and time-consuming that must have been. Especially, when you were washing clothes for 9 children and two adults!

Dad also told me that his mother always said that she could put sauce on rocks and her 9 kids would eat them!  Her boys were always hungry.

Grandma Christina fought for my father to stay in school so he could get his high school diploma because his father Luigi wanted him to quit school to get a job.

She worked in a factory making snowsuits for a few years to make money so she could support her family. 

She saved pennies in a cup for insurance for each one of her boys.  When they grew up she was able to give each of them $500 which was a whole lot of money in those days.

Her sons liked to think they protected her from their father. I asked my dad if Luigi was a violent person and he said they didn’t know because he would not have taken on any of his sons who were all bigger than him.

Christina taught my father how to sew and use a sewing machine to turn a collar.  That was a good way to save money on clothing at the time.  When your shirt collar wore out, then you could turn it and get several more years of wear out of it without looking like a hobo.

In her later years, when her kids were all grown up she would sometimes sit outside on their front stoop (porch) to watch the neighborhood kids play.  My dad says that she knew all their names and would try to make sure they did not get hurt.  I guess that proves she was a mother at heart and was taking on the village approach to raising kids.

Her death was probably not sudden or unexpected.  She had gotten hit by a trolley car and sustained injuries from that accident.  The actual cause of her death was congestive heart failure.  She was only 51 years old but looked at least a decade older than that due to her hard life.  I know she would be happy to know that all her kids got married and most of them had children of their own. 

Christina Prinzo Famoso, Luigi Famoso, Sam Famoso and Catherine Prinzo
Wedding 1908

Christina and her mother Josephine Prinzo - 1940
Christine Prinzo Famoso - 1940

Christine Famoso Prinzo 1940


  1. Your grandmother was still beautiful in her 40s. A touching story.

  2. Thanks. She was beautiful inside and out!

  3. I can never imagine cleaning clothes on a washboard in this day and age, what with the fluctuating climate and the amount of soot in the air. Laundry seems to be a lot more complicated, if you think about it. Good thing technology is here to help us trudge through it and account for all the other complicating factors, such as the dust particulates, which can be problems in and of themselves. Thanks for sharing!

    Bernadette Howell @ Allergy Relief Store

  4. Well, laundry might be more complicated now but it is definitely easier than it was back then. Not nearly as back-breaking.