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Le donne dell’Acquasanta. Una storia palermitana

Palermo, 1897. They work in tandem, in perfect synchrony, Franca and Rosa: their thin, expert fingers roll tobacco leaves from morning to night. Lifelong friends, the two girls grew up together in a fishing village scattered at the edge of the city, next to the Acquasanta tobacco factory. As different as the sun and the moon, impetuous Franca and shy Rosa, they breathe the rough air of the factory all day long, under the predatory gaze of the bosses. Even outside of there, the world of the cigarwomen is ruled by men – husbands, fathers, brothers: they can only dream of the luxury of the villas in the centre, and if they know it, it is because they have sold themselves to the gentlemen who live there to supplement their meagre tobacco wages. Losing it is unthinkable, which is why mothers are forced to keep their newborn children tied behind their backs while they toil away on cigars. But at the umpteenth abuse, Franca decides it is time to raise her head and fight for a right that females seem to be denied: dignity. So, together with Rosa and Salvo, a trade unionist with her same indomitable and passionate spirit, she will fight to open a nursery inside the Manifattura, one of the first nurseries for the children of female workers in a factory in the Kingdom. And she will discover the price she has to pay to defend her ideas and her love. A true story, of redemption and friendship, that illuminates a pioneering and still unknown struggle, against the backdrop of a Palermo that never ceases to enchant us.


Francesca Maccani, from Trento, lives in Palermo and teaches in high schools. In 2018 she won the Donna del Mediterraneo prize with La cattiva scuola, written in four hands with Stefania Auci. She makes her fiction debut with Fiori senza destino (2019), a finalist for the Berto Prize.

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