Inspiring Thursday: Nilde Iotti (1920 – 1999)

On April 25th Italy celebrates the “Liberation day”, to remember the defeat of fascism and the victory of the Resistance. But how was fascism defeated? This was thanks to the resistant groups of Partisans. Many women where 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 always excluded them from making history.  This date is for us chance to be inspired again by some Italian women who gave a huge contribution, often risking their lives.

To all of these brave women belongs Nilde Iotti. Born in 1920, Nide 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 financial difficulties. She became a teacher and was forced to subscribe to the Fascist Party in order to be employed; but she would soon rebel against such constrictions, as she took part to 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 skill, the courage to take some of the riskiest actions and the overall dedication towards the Partisan’s cause. This is something that characterized her whole political career, which was the longest Italy has ever known. She kept on liberating the country after the Liberation: 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 could not take for granted. This appeared to be so clear on 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 for 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 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, alongside all the speeches when 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.