The work schedules of the dressmakers were very flexible depending on the

The work schedules of the dressmakers were very

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troubled at the situation of the dressmakers and other women workers in Turin. The work schedules of the dressmakers were very flexible, depending on the orders and the deadlines for completing them. The work was often prolonged into the night hours and 546 Atti del primo Congresso Internazionale dei Cooperatori Salesiani , Torino, Tipografia Salesiana, 1895, 187-188. 547 Uncertain information in Auffray, 252-257; more certain in Ceria, Vita , 437-438. 253
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continued on Sundays, if the client demanded it. Their physical and moral condition worried her a lot. With the help of some generous people, Cesarina founded an Oratory, thus meeting one of their expressed requests. Fr Rua, to whom she turned for advice, was not satisfied with giving mere suggestions, he sent her priests for the celebration of Mass and for conferences. The most successful conference was one given by Fr Stephen Trione in the St. Barbara church, in fact, the church turned out to be too small for the throng that attended it. The preacher enchanted the public. It was thus that, there and then, a Society for the Mutual Aid of Young Catholic Female Workers was created. The following year Fr Rua succeeded in getting the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians to make two of their houses available to the workers during the summer, at Giaveno in the foothills of the Alps, and at Varazze on the Riviera, so that for a few days the young women workers could breathe in the fresh mountain or sea air. Cesarina extended her work beyond Turin. She sought support and Fr Rua helped her. ‘As regards Miss Astesana,’ he wrote in 1904 to the rector of the community in Florence, ‘ you can assure the Marchioness Alfieri that she is a person worthy of the utmost trust. She is working on a project worthy of great interest on the part of good people, namely, that of protecting young women workers, making sure that they get their Sundays off work, and preventing them from being exploited by excessive working hours to the detriment of their physical and moral health, etc.’ With the encouragement of Cardinal Richelmy and the blessing of the Pope, the work spread and consolidated to the benefit of the young workers. In her difficulties, Cesarina Astesana had recourse to Fr Rua who never failed to advise and support her. In 1901 the National Society for the Protection and Mutual Aid of Young Female Workers was born. By 1906, it counted 1505 patronesses and 15,168 workers and in 1910, at the death of Fr Rua, the number had tripled. The strike at the Anselmo Poma works Nevertheless, the suggestions in the Rerum novarum were of slow implementation. The early years of the century were marked by disturbances in the industrialized regions. The socialists rightly demanded a reduction in the working hours in the factories. The Italian parliament debated the questions of women’s work and child labour. When they believed it necessary the workers went on strike. But the Christian trade union did not easily give into their force. In this regard, the troubles encountered in Turin in the Anselmo Poma textile mill between May and July 1906 are significant and from a certain point of view Fr Rua was also involved.
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