Assunta’s Song

© Maria Dunn, 2012

During WWII, work at GWG was considered essential wartime service. Women took pride in making high quality, durable clothing to help the war effort. Assunta Dotto, who emigrated from Italy in 1939, described a spontaneous work stoppage in response to increased demands on the workers to make army uniforms without proper compensation the increased time involved.

***

Some measure the war in casualties, some the price of coal or bread
I measure it in bundles sewn and letters from the man I’ll wed
We all know someone over there, a husband, brother, son
We hope they get our uniforms, our stitches good and strong

Because of Mussolini, I’m enemy alien
And every month of this war, report to a policeman
I tell him that I’m working hard, I’m grateful for my pay
I want to make a life here and I hope they’ll let me stay

I’m not asking much
I’m not asking the moon
All I ask is a living wage
For the work I do

I know that there’s a war on, I would never just complain
But this new army cloth has only added to our strain
The fabric so unwieldy has forced our pace to slow
We cannot even earn enough to cover room and board

The company is deaf to us, somehow our loss unseen
In desperation, we resolve we will not sew another seam
So we return from lunch, hearts pounding, each at our machines
Now we’ve shut the power down, they’re finally listening

I write my soldier every week, Italian still what I know best
Friends at work who teach me English, never mock my awkwardness
Except for those I laugh with, I’d quit this factory floor
There’s jobs with higher pay, at least until the men come home

Maria Dunn  vocal, acoustic guitar, accordion

Shannon Johnson  violin

Michael Lent  upright bass

Jeremiah McDade  whistle