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  Interwar Period:  Fraternal Societies

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by Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D.

Work in the mines was dangerous and the Italian workers were maimed and killed along with their co-workers. It was these accidents, as well as the cycle of boom and bust, that fostered a spirit of self help initially and, then, union activism. The miners had no reserves of funds and, if an accident occurred, frequently insurance companies did not give them their due. As a result, the Italian miners created mutual help societies. This was not necessarily a North American creation. A fascinating book titled Storia sociale del Comune di Grimaldi (1905-1925) [A Social History of the Comune of Grimaldi] by Raffaele Paolo Saccomanno, talks about the setting up of the Società Operaia [Workers' Society or trade union] in Grimaldi in 1905.1

IInsignia of Loggia Leonida Bissolati No5 Coalhurst. Courtesy of the Romulus & Remus Italian Society of Lethbridge.n the West, the fraternal society or loggia [lodge] was called the Ordine Indipendente Fior d'Italia [O.I.F.D.I., Independent Order of the Flower of Italy].2 This society was headquartered in Fernie, and provided insurance coverage. Enrico Butti mentioned that he was corresponding secretary of the Cesare Battisti Society in Nordegg, and also of the Grand Lodge of Fernie. He also mentions a society in Saunders Creek and the Vittorio Emanuele Society in Calgary, as well as societies in Lethbridge and the Crow's Nest Pass. In Edmonton there was the Società Vittorio Emanuele Terzo, which had sponsored the 1914 agricultural colony in Venice. Genieve Rizzo's family history in Crowsnest and Its People mentions that her Father Frank Alampi and others founded the Società Italiana di Mutuo Soccorso, Confederazione Columbiana [Italian Society for Mutual Relief, Columbian Confederation]. She also mentions that she joined the Società Stella d'Italia [Star of Italy Ladies Society] in Coleman.3Giovanni Caboto Lodge, Calgary, 1925.  A converted garage on Edmonton Trail was used as an Italian cultural centre.  Photo courtesy Glenbow Archives.  NA-5124-3.

Antonella Fanella mentions the Giovanni Caboto Loggia No. 8 in Calgary. This was founded in 1918 as a branch of the Ordine Indipendente Fiori d'Italia. She notes: 

At first, the meetings were held in the homes of lodge members, but later a garage on Edmonton Trail was purchased and used as a cultural centre. The lodge also organized an Italian school, a band and a variety of other social activities. During the Depression, financial stress caused many members to leave the lodge. Other members left to form a rival organization, the Associazione Italo-Canadese, in 1933. In the latter part of the 1930s, a few of the more affluent members tried to revive membership by reorganizing the lodge and rebuilding the existing clubhouse. But with the onset of World War II and the accompanying hostility towards Italo-Canadians, the new facilities had to be sold. 4

JRicordo Loggia Leonida Bissolati No5 OIFDI Group Photo. Courtesy of the Romulus & Remus Italian Society of Lethbridge.ohn Mazzuca of Lethbridge confirmed the existence of two southern Alberta lodges. He provided a formal portrait of members (40 in number) of the Loggia Leonida Bissolati No. 5 of the O.I.F.D.I. of Coalhurst for the period 24 January, 1916 to 24 January, 1926. According to Mr. Mazzuca, the Lodge was disbanded in 1926.  He also provided a photocopy of the charter of the Ordine Indipendente Fior d'Italia Lethbridge, dated May 1st, 1922, issued in Fernie. As well, he gave a photograph, which is probably of a 1926 meeting in Lethbridge that may have included members from the other BC/Alberta Lodges. 

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Copyright © 2002 Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D. and The Heritage Community Foundation

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