Anna's mother Rosa was widowed, she moved the family to Rome and
worked as a cook in a wealthy household. The lady of the house took
an interest in Mrs. Tirocchis children and particularly noticed
the sewing talents of young Anna. She arranged for Anna to work
for a noted Roman dressmaker, one whom family legend has it worked
for Italian royalty. At the least, the dressmaker had customers
among the aristocracy. Among other things Anna learned from her,
she learned how to cater to the elite.
Anna, 30, and Laura, 17, arrived in New York City in 1905. Their
sister Eugenia and her family joined them soon thereafter, and by
1907, they all moved to Providence, where Frank and other Tirocchis
were living. The economic prosperity in the city at that time would
have assured Anna that this was a place where she could build a
worked initially for an East Side dressmaker. By 1911, she and Laura
had opened their own business, A. & L. Tirocchi, at a
prestigious downtown location in the Butler Exchange Building on
Westminster Avenue. There were over 800 dressmakers in Providence
at the time, but the Tirocchi sisters called themselves "gown
makers" to denote the fancier dress they specialized in. They
were soon busy enough to hire about a dozen employees.
Four years later, Anna was able to begin realizing her true dream
by purchasing the large, distinguished Victorian house with a fashionable
address at 514 Broadway. Laura had recently married Dr. Louis Cella,
and they all moved into 514 Broadway, making it their "business
home." The women moved their dressmaking business there, and
eventually, Dr. Cella set up his medical practice there, too.
1911 through the 1940s A. & L. Tirocchi made and supplied
the finest clothing and accessories to the wealthiest women of Providence.
In the early days, Anna designed gowns herself and worked with clients
to choose fabric, trim, and magazine-inspired styles for their clothes.
Her employees stitched the gowns, following Annas instructions
as she draped fabric on custom dress forms, and she then had at
least a couple of fitting sessions with the clients to make sure
the gowns fit perfectly. The clients valued this personal service
and the originality of the gowns they purchased. As a measure of
their regard for her talent and European heritage, they called her
Although of average immigrant background, Anna lived an upper class
life in Providence. It seems she rarely socialized, and then only
with other Italians of similar class, such as the Vervena family
whose head was Italian Consul to Providence and president of Columbus
Devoted to family and employees, Anna Tirocchi never married.
She considered the women who worked for her and her nieces and nephews
to be her "children," making wedding gowns for her "girls,"
and taking a number of nieces and nephews into the Broadway house
for periods of time, paying for their schooling at neighboring St.
Marys parish school. She also supported their education and
encouraged them in their professional aspirations.
Annas business was a calling to her. She skillfully managed
immigration and a new start; engineered the transition of her business
as the retail trade intruded into her custom dressmaking sphere;
and maintained enough business and investment income to support
herself as a single woman and help those around her.
>> read on about Laura