Newsletter #8 (Fall 1994)
A Mystery Solved: Yeânnis Unmasked!
In our last newsletter, we detailed our search for the identity of "Yeânnis," a would-be lover of Sanger's who wrote to her in the early 1910s. We are pleased to report the mystery has been solved! In July Peter Engelman, our Assistant Editor at Smith College found a brief biographical sketch Sanger had written in 1942 about John DiGregorio. On the back of this scrap of paper was a fragment of a letter written to her by DiGregorio. The handwriting exactly matched that of the unidentified "Yeânnis." As we had suspected, "Yeânnis" was an alias for someone named John, whose association with Sanger, though it lasted at least until 1955 (judging from correspondence we have), began during her early radical years in New York.
"Yeannis," as we also deduced, was an immigrant. Sanger described him as "a very sober, quiet level headed Italian. A loyal friend courageous thinker – a bit of a brogue as he lived in an Irish family to learn English." She recalled that "John initiated me into opera – also to spaghetti luncheons." Sanger did not mention DiGregorio's declarations of love for her or his marriage proposal, though interestingly she did note, "John's love life was on the Madonna side – liked them gentle & soft to the world but jealous & flaming within." (April 29, 1942, MSM, S20:695). Unfortunately, we know little more about DiGregorio beyond his real name than we knew about "Yeânnis." We know only that DiGregorio worked in real estate, married a woman named Sarah, and was an aspiring writer who occasionally contributed articles to political journals such as Solidarity. DiGregorio died in the late 1950s at the age of 80.
For an update on this story, see Yeânnis Revisited.