Saturday, May 12, 2018

Anna Carlo-Blasi, “Queen of Little Italy," campaigned for better sanitation to fight cholera.

Anna Carlo-Blasi, “The Queen of Little Italy," born Luiga Anna Chiariello, migrated to Chicago in 1887. 

Two years later, she married Joseph Carlo, who operated a saloon in partnership with his brother-in-law, Frank Taglia. The Carlos had two children, Antonio and Cecilia. In the 1890s, she was active as a midwife, as a leader in several of the dozen Italian mutual benefit societies of which she was a member and as a driving force in First Ward politics. Allied with the infamous Bath House Coughlin and Hinky Dink Kenna, she gained a reputation as a friend and mediator who could help find jobs and get city services from the pols. 

Carlo-Blasi, a popular midwife, lived at 931 South State Street, used her political connections to campaign for better sanitation in an attempt to fight the cholera that was killing many of the newborns she delivered. 

Living in a rough neighborhood, she became the first woman in Chicago to get a permit to carry a revolver. Apparently she needed the gun; her husband was stabbed to death in a quarrel in 1908.
Informal full-length portrait of Annie Carlo-Blasi standing on a sidewalk facing census taker Philip D'Andrea, who is holding papers, with a man and several small children standing in a grocery store entrance and women standing on the sidewalk behind Blasi in Chicago, Illinois. Carlo-Blasi's nickname: Queen of Little Italy. 1914
After only 16 months, Anna Carlo married Joseph Blasi, a First Ward Republican precinct captain, in an elaborate ceremony at Old St. Peter’s Church attended by many prominent elected officials. Apparently, the Blasis developed some personal ambitions for elective office. 

In June 1913, the big news in Illinois was the passage of women’s suffrage. Almost from the moment she became eligible to serve, Anna Carlo-Blasi announced her intention to run for alderman. Newspapers around the country breathlessly carried the story, and then, nothing. No mention of her withdrawal or explanation of what happened. 

Her name seems to have vanished from the Chicago print media until her death in June 1920. Thousands attended her wake and funeral which was one of the largest the city had known at that time. Among the honorary pallbearers were current Mayor William Hale Thompson and former Mayor Carter H. Harrison.

What happened to Anna Carlo-Blasi after she announced her intention to run for alderman? She seemed to have fallen off the face of the earth for 7 years until her death.

Chicago Tribune, Friday, June 27, 1913, Page 2 Article:
Mrs. Annie Carlo-Blasi Becomes Equal of Kenna. 
"QUEEN OF LITTLE ITALY." 
Plans Reform, but Won't Fight "Hinky Dink" or Coughlin.
With the signing of the woman's suffrage bill by Gov. Dunne yesterday there came into existence automatically a new factor in Chicago downtown politics and one expected to prove powerful in future municipal elections. Chicago has a new "boss." It is Mrs. Annie Carlo-Blasi, for twenty years undisputed "queen of little Italy." 

Mrs. Blasi, who lives at 931 South State street, is better known as Annie Carlo, as her marriage to Blael is recent. Her occupation as midwife, which has served somewhat in her political work, is far from her principal occupation. As a furnisher of bonds in South Clark street, as adviser to the politicians seeking information on the probable Italian vote, and as a person of great influence in swinging votes by the thousand ahe has long been well known.

Now Will Control Votes. 

But her influence hereafter is gotrg to be much greater. Heretofore she has had to tell the women, what their husbands must do, and to issue orders to the men themselves --orders which have generally been obeyed. But now she will control the votes of the women themselves, and forcing them to take an interest in politics on their own account will be able through them to swing more of the men's votes. 

But take office? Not a bit of it. She was urged yesterday to tell why. "I wouldn't fight my friends," she said. "They've been good to me. But I want the women to work and I want them to have jobs. We ought to have women on the police force." 

First to Get Revolver Permit

She smiled as she remarked proudly that she was the first Chicago woman to be given a license for carrying a revolver. Then she exhibited a medal which had been given her by the boys at Pontiac reformatory, and gave every indication she is going in for reform." 
We will make a clean city," continued the queen boss. "There are not enough street sweepers down here." 

Admiring followers asserted she could get any office she wants. They told of her standing at the polls in snowstorms and rain and slush, telling newcomers where they should mark their ballots, and "helping her friends." They say she already has organization of 5,000 Italian women through the city, with a big organization in the First ward. On Sunday she is going to get her west side force busy by holding a meeting at Forquer and Desplaines streets, with the Incoronata society, of which she is president.

Possibility that the boss would fight the present First ward organization was kicked in the head.

"Sure, I won't." said Mrs. Carlo-Blasi. "John Coughlin, Mike Kenna, Carter Harrison, and Gov. Dunne are my friends. When they need me I will give them the First ward." 
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

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