Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Year Emma Morano was Born

by Nomad

When Emma Morano was born, Queen Victoria, now weary with age, was still on the throne and William McKinley was president. 

The other players were rehearsing in the wings.
The youthful Albert Einstein had just entered university and, Morano's fellow countryman, Guillermo Marconi was still working out the details of his wireless communication device. The Wright brothers were flying kites in Dayton, Ohio.
Mohandas Gandhi was a just young lawyer in South Africa. Adolf Hilter and Benito Mussolini were just a pair angry teenagers and Franklin Roosevelt was a sheltered young man of Hyde Park privilege, preparing to go to Harvard.

In the year of her Morano's birth, Henry Ford had a falling out with Thomas Edison and started his own enterprise. He called it "The Detroit Automobile Company." The term, "automobile," had only been coined earlier that year in an editorial in The New York Times. A year later, after only twenty vehicles had been built, the company went bust.

In 1899, visionary inventor Nikola Tesla in his laboratory in Colorado Springs told an interviewer:
Life is a rhythm that must be comprehended....Everything that lives is related to a deep and wonderful relationship: man and the stars, amoebas’ and the sun, the heart and the circulation of an infinite number of worlds. These ties are unbreakable, but they can be tamed propitiate and begin to create new and different relationships in the world, and that does not violate the old.
Telsa looked deep into the future and saw a fantastic era in human history about to begin. It was a time of profound optimism. It was impossible not to feel that every problem could be solved and things from here on out would steadily improve. 

Nevertheless, when Morano entered into this world, there were no televisions, no radios, and the motion picture industry was in its infancy. There were no airplanes in the sky and no highways crisscrossing the land and lassoing cities. 

The average life expectancy in Italy- Emma's home- was only 44 years. For an Italian woman today, that figure has nearly doubled to 85.2.

With remarkable speed, villages were being emptied for the dubious benefits of urban life.
Noise, traffic jams, slums, air pollution, and sanitation and health problems became commonplace. Mass transit, in the form of trolleys, cable cars, and subways, was built, and skyscrapers began to dominate city skylines.
At the turn of the century life in the cities was, if not pleasant, at least, offered more opportunities for advancement. America was then the land of promise for immigrants seeking freedom from class prejudice and stagnation. In other words, hope for a better future. America welcomed its immigrant population, 

For the upper class, enriched by the fully matured Industrial Age, life was pretty sweet. It wasn't to last much longer, however. Already in trouble by 1900, by the time the first World War started, the aristocracy and its established privilege were giving way to a slightly more democratic equality between classes.

Women, perhaps like Emma's mother, wore restrictive corsets to retain as long as possible an hourglass figure and heavily starched leg o'mutton sleeves. Outside the home, proper ladies wore astonishingly wide and ornate hats and gloves. 
The men wore shirt collars and hats (from top hats to soft felt hats) and eccentric voluminous facial hair. Children were seen but not heard and composed a significant part of the labor force.
Entertainment was generally of the public kind, live theater, music halls, opera, live concerts, and public exhibitions, while, at home, there was the upright piano and the windup gramophone. 

In the US, the epicenter of the progress of that age, women, by and large, were still unable to vote. Up until 1910, only four states gave full voting rights to women: Wyoming (1869) Colorado (1893), Utah (1896), and Idaho (1896). 
(Women in Italy did not have voting rights until 1945.)

In the year of Morano's birth, Kate Chopin wrote "The Awakening" which focused on women's issues, like marriage, motherhood, divorce, and sexuality, in a way that had the male hegemony dismissing the author as "one more clever writer gone wrong." Others hoped that Chopin would "devote that flexible, iridescent style of hers to a better cause."
(Before Morano reached 40, she herself would take a bold step and divorce her abusive husband.)

Emma Morano, in the midst of her day-to-day living, witnessed so much of our modern history, a century completely unpredictable and unique. She was a spectator to the bewildering blur of technological development, political actions, and reactions, of movements like Communism, World Wars and Cold Wars, of the rise and fall of people and nations. 

And she survived it all.

Ms. Morano, Europe's oldest person at 116, is still a witness to the modern age, with its all its achievements and its glory as well as its follies and vulgarities. 

Morano, one of only two women alive certified to have been born in the 19th century, reached the milestone on Sunday in her one-bedroom flat in Verbania, a small town in the Piedmont region of north-west Italy.
On her recent birthday on 29 November, she sang her favorite song, Parlami d’amore Mariù (Talk to me about love, Mariu) to a small group of well-wishers.

In good spirits, Morano told them  
“I’m fine, I’m fine and as long as it stays like that I will remain with you.”