The Quilietti Family

The story of a Scots Italian family

DANTE Elsie – 1910-1997 /Rao

Elsie Dante was the daughter of Giuseppe PIETRO Ferruccio Dante 1876-1953 and Maria Giuseppa ERMENIA Quilietti 1874-1929

Her parents were first cousins. Her parents both being the offspring of two Brucciani sisters from Castelvecchio. Eletta and Peter would have played as children in Italy. This was common in the Italian community at this time. Her parents Eletta Quilietti and Pietro Dante married in Woonsocket in the year 1901.

Peter Dante had a few occupations from his arrival in 1889 until he died in the 1950s. He helped with his uncle’s fruit business on arrival, then on to make confectionery and ice cream with him. Then a truck driver. He then progressed into the Mills where there was plenty work where he learned different jobs. One of his jobs was as a belt fixer. Ermenia Quilietti looked after the family. But we know that she never kept good health, a sickly person as described by Elsie many years later.

Elsie Dante was born in January 1910 at home 82 Prairie Avenue in Pawtucket, her father, Peter, was 33, and her mother, Ermenia, was 35. She was the second child born but her elder sister Valentine died at birth in 1908. Brother Leonardo was born in April 1912 but died the following month. Then her sister Alma was born in 1913.

When their mother Ermenia Quilietti died in the year 1929 it was decided that Elsie would leave her education and step into her mother’s shoes keeping house for her father Pietro and looking after her younger sister Alma.   The house was large and we are led to believe that the upper flats were regularly rented out to supplement the family income during the years of the depression.  So this housekeeper’s roll would not have been an easy option for young Elsie.

Elsie  married an Italian immigrant by the name of Albert Rao who was born in the year 1905.

 It is believed his family came from the Naples region of Italy.  The Rao family arrived in 1888 as is documented in the 1910 census.  His father Loui Rao [1865-1945] at first found work in the Iron Foundry.  Albert’s mother was Rose Durante [1866-1943 .Loui’s parents were Vincenzo Rao and MARIA RICCIARDI and they were both born in Pietravairano, Caserta in Italy.

 Albert was enlisted in the American Army during the Second World War enlisting in 1942.  His occupation at the time given as bookkeeper and clerk.  Elsie said that his time in the army gave him itchy feet and he pursued a career in horseracing which took him all over the Country.  It has been carried down by work of mouth that Albert was a jockey a pursuit which must have been part-time. Elsie and Albert never had any children, although for a while they did consider adopting.  This unfortunately never did happen.   He died in the year 1970.

  • Elsie’s words in 1993 speaking about how her mother spoke about the past about her upbringing in Castelvecchio, Barga, Italy
  • She said “all the kids were starving, all hungry you know.  So my grandmother was around, cooking with a big stick, you know, stirring the polenta.  The kids over there they were hungry, starving and they are all around her.  ‘GET OUTA HERE’ and boom [as she belts the stick across the shoulder of one of the kids].  He was licking’ the polenta from off his shoulders he was so hungry.
  • She repeated how hungry all the kids were and when they were very young, that there was no work and no money.
  • Elsie goes on to recall some memories of Ermenia, her mother “She died young, at 54.  Maw spoke about her memories of back home in Italy. They had a small house, only a first floor with a second floor above.  Where did they sleep, how did they sleep, one, two three, four boys and two girls, I don’t know about the others, like you say maybe they had died, I mean they had other sisters you know”
  • Uncle Giuseppe had a meat-shop, a butcher’s shop, but he had some fruit there.   I remember all the fruit there in the window, beautiful fruit, and there was also some vegetables.   I remember the fruit along the window, nice, beautiful fruit.  Then you know the meat was good, but today, I don’t think anything is too good”
  • Elsie then goes on to tell us about her paternal grandmother Annie Brucciani Dante and her grandfather Frank Dante.  “338 North Main Street, it was an old shack.   I didn’t like it, it stank of mould, didn’t it [asking sister Alma who nodded in agreement]. It wasn’t that big but there was a tenement at the back and it wasn’t very nice at all.   I don’t know how they stayed there all those years.”
  • Elsie then recalls her own teenage years when she worked at the silk mill in Pawtucket.  She was 14-17 years at the time before her mother took ill and she had to take over the responsibilities.

Elsie then recalls her own friend Rita who came from Sicily.  She would talk a few phrases of Italian to her friend.  Rita would answer her in American because the Sicilian language was so vastly different from the Tuscan she had learned from her Maw and Paw.   But she recalls that they had a lot of fun translating with each other.

There is a family plot in Mount St. Mary’s Cemetery in the town.  Peter, Ermenia, Elsie, Albert, Frank and Alma all share the same resting place.

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