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VIEW early history of the IWL from the Center for Migration Studies.



  • 1915 – Italy enters World war I on the side of France and England. Thousands of Italian immigrants living in the U.S. rush home to sign up as riservisti in the Royal Italian Army.

  • 1917 – the united states enters war on side of Italy and her allies.

  • 1918 – World War I ends; the riservisti are demobilized from the Royal Italian Army and prepare to come home.

  • 1919 – An “Italian Committee” of the American Red Cross is formed to help needy veterans of the Italian Army living in New York City. The Committee’s devoted Italo-American women found jobs for some of them, while for others they obtained charity in the form of food, clothes and medical care. 

  • 1920 – The Italian Welfare League is organized as an independent society to continue and expand the work of the Italian Committee into the realm of Italian immigration. Italian Ambassadress, Baroness Jacqueline Romano-Avezzana serves as patroness. Founders of the League include banker Lionello Perera, his wife Carolyn Perera, and Marguerite del Vecchi. The League headquarters are in Manhattan and it sets up a branch office in Brooklyn. In addition, it establishes ties to Ellis Island.

  • 1921 – Mrs. Perera reports that 593 Italians call at the Offices of the League, 753 jobs are found by the Employment Department, 853 articles of clothing given away, social workers make 4,170 visits.

  • 1923 – Citizenship drive launched.

  • 1924 – January. The League opens a permanent office on Ellis Island. It is admitted to membership to the General Committee of Immigrant Aid at Ellis Island and New York Harbor.

  • 1925 – Gives aid to 1,467 Italian immigrants.

  • 1932 – Rosa Ponselle performs in a benefit performance.

  • 1938 – Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra perform a benefit concert for the League.

  • 1941 – Italy declares war on the United States; Italian enemy aliens brought to Ellis Island for hearings and investigation.

  • 1942-46 – The League is permitted to help the wartime detainees.

  • 1945-49 – The league sends substantial aid to Italian war orphans.

  • 1954 – Ellis Island closes and League transfers its immigrant aid work to the city.

  • 1973 – Angela Carlozzi Rossi retires as head of the Immigrant Aid Department.

  • 2001 – I Nostri Bambini program founded as a result of babies of Italian heritage born fatherless in the World Trade disaster.

  • 2010 – The Italian Welfare League celebrates its 90th anniversary in a function at Ellis Island.


A Guide to the Archives. Ohla della Caava and Maria Rosaria Ostuni (eds.). Staten Island, New York: Center for Migration Studies, 1974.​


Il Caroccio: The Italian Review (“Rivista di coltura propaganda e difesa italiana in America”) (various editions). New York, 1920’s.

​​Italy America Society. News Bulletin (various editions), New York: 1920, 1921.

​Sorrentino, Frank M., “Italian Welfare League,” in The Italian American Experience: An Encyclopedia, edited by Salvatore J. LaGumina, Frank J. Cavaioli, Salvatore Primeggia and Joseph A. Varacalli. New York: Garland Publishing, 2000.

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