Actually the Italian side of my family is not from Sicily, but I couldn't resist "The Golden Girls" reference as a way to introduce this family history post. My whole life my father has been researching, writing and polishing a massive Italian family history. I suppose it is not surprising that there was no feminist consciousness among my Italian forbears of the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The tale of my grandfather's grandparents' "courtship" in southern Italy in 1865 is a bit rough:
The family story is that my tall and handsome Great-great-grandfather ("Luigi") was 28 years old when he fell in love with a tiny 14 year old girl who was to become my Great-great-grandmother ("Marianna"). (My elderly relatives all attribute my small bones and freakishly small hands to Marianna's genetic legacy.) When Marianna's parents died, her older sisters had already been married off, but she was too young so she was placed in a convent orphanage. (She was Catholic unlike my paternal line.) The nuns taught her needlework and she became immensely proficient at embroidery, silk spinning, and crocheting.
Marianna often sat in the convent garden and Luigi happened to see her on a number of occasions when he would walk by. He fell in love with her on sight. Since Marianna was 14, and too young to be married, Luigi rode a horse into the building where she was sewing one day and abducted her. He took her off to another town and married her that night. Even though she was so young, he knew that once they were married, the priests and nuns would not annul the marriage.
Marianna and Luigi were my grandfather's grandparents. I heard this story from my grandfather when I was growing up. He heard it from his parents and from Marianna and Luigi themselves (they died in 1936 and 1915 respectively). Family tradition is unclear as to whether Marianna and Luigi had ever talked before he abducted her. It is also unclear as to whether Marianna consented to the abduction. I guess no one thought that those were important questions to ask! I like to think that it was assumed that she consented to the abduction.