Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Student of the Week: Teresa Fantazzo

For all documents, click to enlarge

Today we're going to turn our attention to Teresa Fantazzo, a Manhattan Trade School dressmaking student who grew up in Astoria, Queens. Her main card, shown above has two noteworthy items. First, an entry near the bottom notes that she was overweight by 32 pounds. More intriguingly, her father's occupation is listed as "coal heaver," a term I wasn't familiar with, although it seems rather self-explanatory. Some quick Googling produced photos, historical accounts, and more.

Teresa's grade and teach comments were generally good (as always, E = Excellent; G = Good; F = Fair; P = Poor):


The comments at top right from Elsa Pohl are particularly strong: "Conscientious, absolutely dependable, and trustworthy, dignified. Former G.O. president." I believe this last comment refers to the school's General Organization, or student body.

Here's Teresa's employment record, showing an assortment of jobs she had over the course of two and a half years:


Note that her first three jobs were as a dress finisher ("fin."), which is in keeping with her chosen trade of dressmarking. But her remaining jobs were spent operating a Singer sewing machine ("Singer op"). Sewing machine skills were a separate course of study at the school, so it's surprising to me that Teresa moved from one trade to another.

The other noteworthy thing here involves Teresa's third job, for a woman named Amy Campbell. A comment in the far-right column reads, "Miss Campbell did not pay my last week's salary."

Further information on Teresa's missing wages can be found on this card:


The key entries read like so:

Oct. 14, 1931 [comment from job placement secretary, Althea Dreyer Kotter]: Talked with Miss Campbell about your salary check and she said it had been mailed. Evidently lost but she will mail duplicate. Let hear from you about this. — ADK

Nov. 11, 1931 [comment from Teresa]: Have not received any money from Miss Campbell.

Nov. 19, 1931 [comment from Mrs. Kotter]: Call Miss Campbell on the telephone and tell her you will take legal septs to get your money. Prefer to have you handle this yourself. Write me. — ADK

Oct. 25, 1931 [this date is almost certainly wrong and was probably supposed to be Nov. 25}: Miss Campbell paid the $16.

I feel conflicted about the school telling Teresa to handle the situation herself. On the one hand, it's good that they encouraged her to stick up for herself. On the other, this was a job that the school had arranged for Teresa, and she was only 17 years old when this all took place -- pretty young to be threatening employers with legal action. Couldn't the school have interceded on her behalf? In any event, it's good to see that the matter was resolved.

That's all I have for Teresa. If anyone knows more about her, please let me know. Thanks.

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