‘An American Girl in Italy’: Better for women traveling alone today?

One of my favorite photographs turns 60 today: “An American Girl in Italy.”

You’ve probably seen it before – a black and white shot of a young woman walking down the street in Italy tightly grasping her body as Italian men catcall and even grab their crotches as she passes them.

(Click here to see the famous photograph and the woman today!)

From The Today show blog:

“The iconic 1951 image “American Girl in Italy” turns 60 on Monday. As its anniversary approaches, the stunning woman in the photo — Ninalee Craig, now 83 — is speaking up about it. She wants to explain what the photo represents, and what it doesn’t.

“Some people want to use it as a symbol of harassment of women, but that’s what we’ve been fighting all these years,” Craig said in a telephone interview from her home in Toronto. “It’s not a symbol of harassment. It’s a symbol of a woman having an absolutely wonderful time!”

“Back in 1951, Craig was a carefree 23-year-old who had chucked her job in New York and secured third-class accommodations on a ship bound for Europe. She spent more than six months making her way through France, Spain and Italy all by herself — something very few women did in the years following World War II.”

(When I search for “An American Girl in Italy” to try to pull an AP shot of the famous picture, what came up was a bunch of shots of Amanda Knox, an American girl convicted of killing a  girl in Italy, and Natalee Holloway, who has no connection to Italy of which I know.)

I saw this Ruth Orkin shot for the first time about nine months before I left to study in Italy so I wondered if my experience would be similar.

What I saw walking the streets in Italy in 1992 was very similar to what Craig saw 40 years earlier. The men in Italy were aggressive with young college girls. They would obviously catcall you and follow you. They would (accidentally) push up against you in the bus on the trains. But I never felt in danger.

We worried one time about a girlfriend who went off on a moped with a boy she met in a piazza. While a romantic idea a la “Roman Holiday” with Audrey Hepburn, we thought she was foolish to go off alone with someone she had literally just met. We were relieved when she returned unharmed.

We’ve talked before about Natalee Holloway and the perils of young women traveling without their parents in foreign countries. My sister-in-law wants to do a study abroad in Italy this summer – her college freshmen summer. My father-in-law is fine with it and plans to meet her after to travel more through Europe.

My sister-in-law was actually born in Italy because my father-in-law was stationed there on a U.S. military base. She lived in Italy for her first few years so I’m not sure if that gives her a greater comfort level traveling there.

Women travel more frequently today than they did in the 1940s but there also seems to be crazier folks around.

Did you travel abroad as a young woman? Would you have any worries about letting your daughter (or son) travel abroad? Would going through a university program make you feel better or worse about the idea? (Our “chaperones” did very little. They would have boots on the ground though if someone ended up missing or arrested.)

29 comments Add your comment

JATL

August 22nd, 2011
1:45 pm

Some of my best memories are of traveling anriad to Europe and Central America in my 20s (first trip was at age 20). I was with other women friends, but several trips were only myself and another woman, and we frequently split up due to different priorities. I never felt scared abroad, although I probably shpuld have a few times. I took risks and had some wild times-but boy were they good ones!
Absolutely -I hope to send both of my boys to Europe or Asia between high school and college. We also plan to take them on trips abroad with us while they’re younger. I only wish I could steal away some place alone for about a month right now! I wouldn’t hesitate to travel alone to most places I wish to travel.

JATL

August 22nd, 2011
1:50 pm

*abroad* -this iPhone conjures up some bizarre mistakes!

Augusta

August 22nd, 2011
1:51 pm

Too much of the US to see, before I even think of going to Europe….

jarvis

August 22nd, 2011
2:47 pm

Spent the best Summer of my life in Italy when I was 21.
If you sister is at UGA, tell her to check out GLOBIS (http://www.globiscenter.org/) The Verona program is EXCELLENT.

here every once in a while..

August 22nd, 2011
3:06 pm

When I lived in Naples when Mike was there..he and I acted in surprising similar ways to the American girls we went to school with as you described the Italians acted towards you :-) Greatest place ever to grow up in..no phones, no TV, and no drinking age.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

August 22nd, 2011
3:14 pm

Hello Naples friend — always funny when you drop in.

his sister is starting at FSU.

here every once in a while..

August 22nd, 2011
3:31 pm

Good for her. She was a little thing back then. I bet when you two talk about your Italy experiences they seem a lot different.

here every once in a while..

August 22nd, 2011
3:36 pm

come to think of it…I don’t even remember him having a sister. Just remember his little brother. He must have left Naples in ‘85. Was she born then? Mostly I remember playing hoops in the Pinetamare housing court. Lots of hoops.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

August 22nd, 2011
4:25 pm

His mother died in 1990 and his father remarried soon after and they now have a sister who is 18 — Victor is in his 30s — he works as a costumer on TV shows in Wilmington — but his dad was restationed in Italy — in Vincenza (sp) at the NATO base when she was born. Victor finished his high school there and then cam back to US for college while his dad stayed in Italy.

here every once in a while..

August 22nd, 2011
4:57 pm

ahhhh…gotcha…that’s why I don’t remember her. Too bad about his mom…nice lady.

Father Jane Goose

August 22nd, 2011
5:33 pm

Ah, the perils of those who think they are secure in middle class, “Do you feel comfortable sending your kid to Europe?”

One in five children now live in poverty in the United States because of the economy… Housing market still going down… Wild fluctuations in the stock market….. No signs of economic growth in America….. 50 million Americans now on food stamps because of lack of work…. No good paying jobs available…

You live in a bubble, lady. Better hope Michael keeps his job or you’ll get a taste of true America very quickly.

Just be sure...

August 22nd, 2011
6:14 pm

…to watch the movie “Taken” (starring Liam Neesom) prior to sending your lovely daughters to Europe unchaperoned…and I am not saying to not let them go, just be forewarned of some of the perils that none of us like to think about…

Father Jane Goose

August 22nd, 2011
11:07 pm

What would happen if Michael lost his job at AP? How much money do you have saved away and how long would that last you? 6 months? 9 months? Then what happens when the money runs out, after you’ve done all the right things – saved money, invested in your 401k, saved for the kids college. You would have done everything right but wind up working part time jobs just to put food on the table, baby. You seem to live in dream land at the destruction of America going on around you. You can get a college degree, play by the rules and still find yourself tossed into the street because of the economy. Then the real stress will begin, Theresa. Think holding a double mortgage was stressful, imagine if Michael lost his job.

This is America today; this is reality. You can everything right and still get screwed. Meanwhile, you write about sending your kid overseas for the summer.

You have no clue about the reality of what is happening in America, baby. You live in a bubble.

Wake up.

Father Jane Goose

August 22nd, 2011
11:11 pm

Next write about vacations, trips, or the latest thing the children like to have. Your world is devoid of reality to what is happening in America, Theresa. There is a Depression going on with good, hard working people out of work with nowhere to go – there are no jobs.

Your blog is an insult to the reality of the United States of America and what is happening on the ground.

Enjoy your Arizona suburbia life, while it lasts.

Cheers~

Father Jane Goose

August 22nd, 2011
11:15 pm

Theresa, did you enjoy your AC tonight? Did you like your cable TV this evening? How about the kids with their game machine, did they have fun tonight? You are so disconnected with reality – how about families that savor Hamberger Helper tonight and loved it. How about the families with children that don’t have cable. How about the stress of children watching their father come home after looking for work with no good news, only to have mother cry in dispair. How about a white collar college educated man wait tables just to bring in money while the bills come due late. How about marriages dissolving because the old man can’t find work.

This is America you refuse to recognize. Send your kid to Europe…. are you kidding me woman?

You’re nuts.

shaggy

August 23rd, 2011
6:41 am

Father Jane Goose,

Nobody ever said life would be easy or fair. Quit whining in your bourbon and feeling sorry for yourself.
If you really are a man, get some courage and fight your urge to bully moms on a freakin mom blog. I HIGHLY doubt you have the cajones to say what you write to anyone’s face, let alone a man, who might rearrange your facial features.

If it is one thing that I hate, it’s a bully that picks on people, just to make themselves feel powerful…read “Father Jane Goose”. When you bust one down, they mewl and cry for forgiveness. Some of us don’t forgive, and a bully is wise to remember that.

BShepC

August 23rd, 2011
8:31 am

Can you block Father Jane Goose? Don’t believe he is contributing ANYTHING to this blog….

motherjanegoose

August 23rd, 2011
9:01 am

Also, he can’t even come up with an original name. No…he is not related to me nor do I know him.
If someone hijacks my name that is one thing ( I have used it for years here) but when the attacks show up…that is another. Is anyone thrilled about the comments he has posted?

JJ

August 23rd, 2011
10:39 am

Hey FatherJaneGoose, this blog is an escape from reality.

There may be a depression/recession going on, but I myself, am a single parent, on a very limited income, yet I have managed to go to Hilton Head, Savannah, Tybee Island, Panama City Beach, and St. Simons Island (2 times so far this year, and I’m going again next month)…….

I can still manage to put food on the table, get back and forth to work, and enjoy my friends.

It’s all about LIVING life to the fullest. I still manage to maintain my 401K and my IRA, and all 4 bank accounts.

I live within my means, and have no credit cards.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

August 23rd, 2011
10:41 am

Father Jane Goose….this is familiar stuff…have you ever posted here under a different name?

I don’t know about anyone else, but I read your little manifesto and as it went on…and on….I couldn’t help but think “this dude is walking a very fine line mentally”.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

August 23rd, 2011
10:50 am

@Just be sure…I skipped a trip to Paris because I watched the Bourne Identity and was afraid of all the care chases there between the cops and an internation rogue spy.

JATL

August 23rd, 2011
11:58 am

@Father Jane -evidently it really sucks to be you. Hate it! Most of us are well aware of this nation’s and the world’s miseries, and you have no idea what any of us may be doing to help. However, since I work and save and have the means, I AM going to enjoy myself and let my kids enjoy themselves. The world has always been full of misery and miserable people. Luckily for you, I’m guessing you’re just choosing to be miserable. How pathetic! If you don’t like this blog or TWG, go whine somewhere else. You basically just sound like you’re jealous. Perhaps an old TWG flame?

CJM

August 23rd, 2011
5:20 pm

I was iffy about commenting since the conversation seems to have taken a turn in an unintended direction. However, I thought as a young woman who recently spent a little time in Italy alone, I could provide some insight for the author. I love visiting new places. I have a file called “Discover the Southeast” which lists pretty much every hamlet I discover when I get off the interstate on road trips. I also enjoy traveling abroad and when I save enough time and money I go for it. This summer I met friends in Taormina, IT for a wedding. Prior to that I spent a few days in Rome alone. There were catcalls and inappropriate gestures by the older men but I did not feel unsafe. No one ever got close enough for me to feel unsafe. That being said I only did the really touristy things alone. My off the beaten path experiences were with group tours. I presume that the young woman in question is pretty savvy if they are even considering this. Even so, I would think that a university program would make all involved feel more safe. While I was waiting for my friends in the Catania airport I realized that until that point the closest friends or family to me were in Germany (not exactly close in case of emergency). I’ve been alone in Europe and Southeast Asia before but friends/family were somewhere in the general vicinity. Three days is a short amount of time. An entire summer without a “base” like a university program might be disconcerting.

[...] ruth roman – Bing News « Antique sundial worth £100,000 stolen from Avington Park in Itchen Abbas – This [...]

Kat

August 23rd, 2011
10:53 pm

I certainly don’t think that every blog entry will thrill everyone, and there is certainly room for disagreement, but seriously?!? Not everyone is “suffering,” nor is everyone doing great. This blog is not “an escape from reality” either. Sounds like the reality is that someone is going abroad and what do you think about such things. It’s not, should people go abroad, do you think the money is being well spent? How crappy is the world out there, and what should I do about it?

Having been annoyed by FJG enough, I went to Germany in the late 1990s and had a great time. Though I’m no Miss America, I did have two guys who wanted to spend time with me (ahem), plus I was told by another that he “loved me,” after only learning that I was from the US. I’m no idiot to think that any of that was actual interest, but rather a way to get here from there. I think a lot of men in those countries think that American women will fall for them (and their accents) easily. Not a chance!

8/23/2011 News Update « MissGlobe

August 24th, 2011
6:26 am

[...] 8/23/2011 News Update ‘An American Girl in Italy’: Better for women traveling alone today? – Atlanta Jou… [...]

8/24/2011 News Update « MissGlobe

August 25th, 2011
6:26 am

[...] 8/24/2011 News Update ‘An American Girl in Italy’: Better for women traveling alone today? – Atlanta Jou… [...]

8/28/2011 News Update « MissGlobe

August 29th, 2011
6:26 am

[...] ‘An American Girl in Italy’: Better for women traveling alone today? – Atlanta Jou… [...]

8/29/2011 News Update « MissGlobe

August 29th, 2011
6:28 am

[...] ‘An American Girl in Italy’: Better for women traveling alone today? – Atlanta Jou… [...]