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“Curious Victories”: The Famous Murder Case of Maria Barbella and Italian-American Women in the Press Between the 1890s and 1910s


Immigrant women during the period of mass migration received little public attention. However, when some of them became protagonists in sensational murder cases, they burst into the public sphere. Analyzing the representation of Maria Barbella's trial in the mainstream, yellow and the Italian-American press shows how some of these invisible women were able to assert themselves in the public sphere and achieve a degree of agency despite their tragic circumstances. These women, represented as degenerate and genetically inferior in the early coverage of their cases and trials, were, over time, essentially rehabilitated in the press as “proper” American subjects as a result of the convergence of interests between the popular press and the women themselves who both sought to create narratives of transformation.