Internees: Female

I am sending my mother a picture of my son, and I wonder if you could please let her have it. It is the first little grandson she has and I would like it very much if she could have it. Please try and let her have it and If you can’t give it to her send it back to me, as my address is on the outside of the picture.

From the letter written by the daughter of internee Maria Pressello to the warden of the Kingston Prison for Women, Library and Archives Canada

During World War II, 21 women were interned: 17 German Canadians and 4 Italian Canadians. The women were held at the Prison for Women in Kingston, Ontario, and kept in a separate wing known as the Internment Quarters. It was thought that the prison would be more comfortable than a camp. Due to the small number of women internees, the prison was also less costly than constructing a women-only camp.

Women could work in the prison. They were paid for their labour but the amount is unknown. At least one of the Italian women was involved in kitchen work.

Women internees also received letters and care packages from family. Family members could visit the prison, but meetings were limited to 15 minutes and supervised by a guard. If the visit was conducted in Italian, a translator was provided at the internee’s cost.

Women were allowed access to a radio – under strict supervision – in a common area near their cells. Recreational activities included crafts such as knitting, playing Chinese checkers and weekly visits to the prison yard. The prison also had a library. During Christmas, they were given a daily stipend to use towards extra food and entertainment.



Maria Egilda Fontanella

Fontanella had been living in Canada since 1924 and applied for naturalization in 1939. Her application was denied because she had been secretary of Toronto’s Fascio Femminile. Fontanella was 55. She was interned for five months.

Luisa Guagneli

Guagneli arrived in Canada in 1925 and was married that same year. She was 41 years old when she was interned on September 14, 1940. A housewife, Guagneli volunteered her time at the Italian school and was president of the Women’s Section of the Order Sons of Italy in Niagara Falls. These activities led to her five-month internment.

Verna Lo Bosco

Welland’s Verna Lo Bosco was born in Canada in 1911. She worked as a bookkeeper for a local brewery and taught Italian after work.  Her teaching led to a fascist-government subsidized trip to Italy in 1938. This trip, and the reporting it received in the pages of the fascist newspaper Il Bollettino, was used by RCMP to justify Lo Bosco’s internment. She spent almost ten months at Kingston’s Prison for Women.

Maria Pressello

Pressello was a 53-year-old widower living in Windsor when she was interned. Of the four Italian women internees, she spent the longest time at the Kingston Prison for Women: almost 13 months. No evidence exists that she was involved in any fascist organizations.

Detained – 9

Fosca Giubilei
Giuseppina Di Ioia
Antonietta Mancuso
Rosa Spinelli
Carmela Frascarelli
Maria Spaziani
Filomena Riccio
Etelvina Frediani
Francesca Olivieri