Frank’s mother Dolly was a presence throughout his life—in fact, he referred to her as “The Force.” She was on his mind right up until the end, according to The New York Post, which reported Frank’s last words as being, “Oh, dear Lord. Oh, mother.”
Born on December 26, 1896, Natalie Catherine “Dolly” Garavente Sinatra moved to America from the Italian town of Rossi with her family at a very young age.
In 1912, Dolly met 18-year old Antonio ‘Marty’ Sinatra, and snuck into boxing matches dressed as a boy to watch him fight. Her parents, who were of a higher class than Marty, detested the relationship.
Dolly was known to hold a grudge, and had a notably foul mouth… even by Hoboken standards. But in addition to colorful language, Dolly spoke fluent English and several Italian dialects, and had the ability to read and write—unlike her husband.
Frank Sinatra’s singing skills came from both her and his father, who were both talented singers. Dolly was also known for her organizational skills.
She volunteered to become a military nurse during the First World War, but was turned down.
Dolly Sinatra chained herself to Hoboken town hall in 1919, as part of the campaign for women’s votes. Soon she was the head of the local Democratic ward. The Irish, who ran Hoboken at the time, used her to buy the Italian votes. She provided people with jobs, welfare checks, bags of coal and health information. She was close to mayors throughout the period, both of which were notably corrupt… even by Hoboken standards.
Dolly also became a midwife, and performed abortions, which were illegal at the time. She did this free of charge, and saved many reputations, as unplanned pregnancy was considered a disgrace.
Using her mother’s money, she and Marty set up Marty O’Brien’s, the Sinatra’s tavern, on 4th & Jefferson. Holding court at the tavern, everyone in town would stop by to say, “Hello Dolly!”
Here’s Frank Sinatra with the Count Basie Orchestra: