On April 25th Italy celebrates “Liberation Day”, to remember the defeat of fascism and the victory of the Resistance. But how was fascism defeated? This was thanks to the resistance groups of Partisans. Many women were involved, who recognized that war and fascism was also their issue and that they had to resist and act against it, despite the traditions that continuously excluded them from making history. This date is a chance for us to be inspired again by Italian women who gave a huge contribution, often risking their lives.
Nilde Iotti was one of those brave women. Born in 1920, Nilde Iotti was encouraged by her father, a railway worker and socialist-syndicalist, to start an academic career, which she continued to pursue also after his death and the following financial difficulties. She became a teacher and was forced to join the Fascist Party in order to be employed; but she would soon rebel against such constrictions, as she took part in the “Women’s defense Groups”. Her main contribution consisted in the role of the messenger, which was one of the most significant and dangerous.
She stood out for her organizational skills, the courage to take some of the riskiest actions and the overall dedication towards the Partisan’s cause. This is something that characterized her entire political career, which was the longest Italy has ever known. She kept on liberating the country after its liberation from fascism: she knew there was still much work to be done to get rid of the fascist ideology, which was also particularly sexist. In 1946 she was selected to be one of the 75 members of the “Commission for the Constitution” whose responsibility was to develop the Constitution of the Italian Republic. She was the first woman to become the President of the Chamber of Deputies, something she would never take for granted. This was made very clear during her acceptance speech as the President of the Chamber of Deputies in 1979:
“Me myself, I won’t hide this, live almost in an emblematic way this moment, feeling a deep meaning in it, which goes beyond my person and involves millions of women, who through their strenuous fights, patients and tenacious, made their way towards their emancipation. Having been one of them, and having committed to them and their redemption, for the affirmation of equal social and human responsibilities, this all constitutes, and will always constitute for me, a reason to be proud for all my life”.
We are still so impressed by how much Nilde Iotti was ahead of her times. Along all the contributions she gave to shape Italy as a Republic, some of her most inspirational battles involved abortion rights and divorce, emphasised by all of her speeches where she constantly underlined how motherhood was, because of cultural reasons, an oppressive discourse and role for women, and how family as an institution had to be radically rethought.
Written by WAVE Intern: Fabiola Adamo
Parlamento Italiano: www.parlamento.it
Storia XXI secolo: www.storiaxxisecolo.it
Youtube “Monica Guerritore legge il discorso di Nilde Iotti”: www.youtube.com