Ilda Sousa Oral History Interview
Oral History Interview with Ilda Sousa, November 25, 2016
Born in the village of Fontes on the Azorean island of Graciosa in 1926; daughter of Antonio A. and Conceicao A. (da Cunha) Labao; her parents had immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s; her mother settled in Lawrence, Massachusetts, living with relatives from Graciosa and working in a textile mill; her father, who had immigrated from Graciosa to California, was a railroad worker, shoveling coal on a steam locomotive; they met and married in Lawrence; had two daughters, Noemia (who died in infancy) and Deidamia (born in 1910); in 1912 they returned to Graciosa to the village of Fontes and had nine more children (eight daughters and one son); the children, including Ilda Sousa grew to adulthood on Graciosa, but between 1950 and the mid-1960s a number of them immigrated to the United States and settled in Lowell; as a young girl Ilda da Cunha left school to serve as a domestic worker for a wealthier family in Fontes; there she met Aristides A. Sousa, who was born on Graciosa in 1918 and worked as a handyman; they married in 1950 and had one daughter, Marisa D.; in 1966 they immigrated to the United States, settled in Lowell in the “Back Central” neighborhood, and became communicants of Saint Anthony Catholic Church; Ms. Sousa obtained a job in a shoe factory (Grace Shoe), while her husband was employed as a machine operator for a pasta maker (Prince Pasta); she and her husband (who died in 2004, at the age of 85) were members of and active in the Holy Ghost Society and the Holy Trinity Society.
Scope and Contents:Interview conducted by local historian Mehmed Ali; much of the interview focuses on the lives of the parents of Ilda Sousa, their immigration to the U.S. in the early 1900s and the experiences of Ms. Sousa’s mother in New York City and Lawrence, Massachusetts, as well as their lives on Graciosa, after their return to the island in 1912; through the translation of her daughter Ms. Sousa then describes her life growing up on Graciosa, her marriage there, and her immigration to the U.S. in 1966; included are descriptions of her work place in a Lowell shoe factory; her activities with the Holy Ghost Society, and her experiences in Lowell’s “Back Central” neighborhood.