World’s Oldest and Last Living Person Born in the 1800s


116 Years Difference in Time, Yet Not So Very Different 

Although Emma Martina Luigia Morano was born 29 November 1899, and not in the 21st Century, she was born amid “large-scale economic change, job uncertainty, the politics of extremism and paranoia, arguments over America’s international role, and racial conflicts,” to quote Fritz Lanham of the Houston Chronicle.  

According to H.W. Brands, author of The Reckless Decade; Just as we do today, Americans of the 1890s faced changes in economics, politics, society, and technology that led to wrenching and sometimes violent tensions between rich and poor, capital and labor, white and black, East and West.

The 1890s saw the closing of the American frontier and a shift toward imperialist ambitions. Populists and muckrakers grappled with robber barons and gold-bugs. Americans addressed the unfinished business of Reconstruction by separating blacks and whites. Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and other black leaders clashed over the proper response to continuing racial inequality. Those on top of the economic heap—Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Morgan—created vast empires of wealth, while those at the bottom worked for dimes a day.”

As a reconteur of family history set within the backdrop of a developing America, I read the AP article below, and my mind was deluged with thoughts and questions about Emma’s living conditions, her role in her family and society, and how many other achievements she may have accomplished aside from her probable genetic phenomenon of being the oldest person in the world, and the oldest Italian ever.

Searching a little further, I discovered that Emma married Giovanni Martinuzzi at age 27; they had one child ten years later; the baby died at six months old; and, that her marriage was an unhappy one so she kicked out Giovanni in 1938–but, she never divorced him.

Until 1954, Emma worked in her town for the Maioni Industry, a jute factory that made twine, rope, woven sacks and matting. Her other job was in the kitchen of Collegio Santa Maria, a Marianist boarding school in Pallanza, until she was 75 and then she retired.

And yet another phenom, she lived alone until her 115th birthday.

Italian woman, 116, seen as last living person born in 1800s

Author:  Associated Press, Inc. – Photographer:  Antonio Calanni, May 13, 2016116 Year Old Italian Woman

VERBANIA, Italy (AP) — Surrounded by relatives and neighbors, Italy’s Emma Morano greeted with a smile the news that she, at 116, is now the oldest person in the world.

Not only that, but Morano is believed to be the last surviving person in the world born in the 1800s, with a birthdate of Nov. 29, 1899. That’s just 4 ½ months after Susannah Mushatt Jones, who died Thursday in New York, also at 116.

Journalists on Friday descended on Morano’s home in Verbania, a northern Italian mountain town overlooking Lake Major, to document her achievement, but had to wait until she finished a nap to greet her. Morano lives in a neat one-room apartment, which she no longer leaves, and is kept company by a caregiver and two elderly nieces.

Morano told The Associated Press last year that she attributes her longevity to her unusual diet: Raw eggs every day — a diet she’s been on for decades after a sickly childhood. She said she is down to two raw eggs a day and 150 grams of raw steak after a bout of anemia.

“My father brought me to the doctor, and when he saw me he said, ‘Such a beautiful girl. If you had come just two days later, I would have not been able to save you.’ He told me to eat two or three eggs a day, so I eat two eggs a day,” she said at the time.

Her physician, Dr. Carlo Bava, is convinced there’s a genetic component to Morano’s longevity along with her positive attitude.

“From a strictly medical and scientific point of view, she can be considered a phenomenon,” he said last year, noting that Morano has been in stable, good health for years.

Italy is known for its centenarians — many of whom live on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia — and gerontologists at the University of Milan are studying Morano, along with a handful of Italians over 105, to try to figure out why they live so long.

During a visit last summer, Morano was in feisty spirits, displaying the sharp wit and fine voice that used to stop men in their tracks.

“I sang in my house, and people on the road stopped to hear me singing. And then they had to run, because they were late and should go to work,” she recalled, before breaking into a round of the 1930s Italian love song “Parlami d’amore Mariu.”

“Ahh, I don’t have my voice anymore,” she lamented.

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