The future Mother Angelica was born Rita Antoinette Rizzo, on April 20, 1923, in Canton, Ohio, in a community of Italian immigrants, Southeast Canton, who worked in the mills in Canton. Of Italian American background, she was the only child of John and Mae Helen Rizzo (née Gianfrancesco). Her father, a tailor by trade rather than a millworker, was not interested in having children in the first place and abandoned the family when Rita was very young. Her parents divorced in 1929, and her mother maintained full custody of Rita, but struggled with chronic depression and poverty. Her maternal grandparents kept Rita at times.
Rita's childhood was marred by poverty and unhappiness as she grew up during the Great Depression. Looking back upon this time in her life, Angelica described herself and her mother as being "like a pair of refugees. We were poor, hungry, and barely surviving on odd jobs before Mother learned the dry cleaning business as an apprentice to a Jewish tailor in our area. Even then, we pinched pennies just to keep food on the table."
By the age of 16, Rita realized that her mother's dry-cleaning job was a dead end; so she began searching for work for her mother. Through Rita's efforts, her mother got a better job that provided some relief from their dire poverty.
By 1941, a stomach ailment from which Rita had suffered since 1939 required medical attention. By November of that year, x-rays revealed serious abnormalities in her stomach and intestines. The pain continued to worsen, with no alleviation. Doctors were unable to do anything to relieve her suffering or remedy the ailment.
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