The Untold Story: Women in the Italian Resistance, WWII

Hello All,

Members of the Italian Resistance
Today, it is hard to imagine the Fascist and Nazi regimes of Italy and Germany were able to captivate such a large population as they did before and during World War II. It is much easier for us to believe people were adamantly against the evils of such regimes, which was the case in Italy. The Italian resistance was born in 1943, when Benito Mussolini was finally eradicated from power by the Fascist Grand Council. At that time, almost half the resistance members were female, 105,000 out of 250,000 total, with 4,600 being arrested, 2,750 deported to German Concentration Camps, and 623 murdered by Italian fascists or Germans.  
The politics of Italy from the 1920s to the 1940s were tumultuous to say the least. Two very different forms of government were vying for control and power; the Italian monarchy led by Marshal Pietro Badoglio, who consequently fled southern Italy, while Mussolini was reinstated as a puppet figure for the Italian Social Republic, who also had an alliance with Adolf Hitler. As a result of the turmoil between the parties, an Action Party formed from the camaraderie of the Communists, Socialists, and Christian Democrats. These particular sects of people began small resistance units, as time wore on, the small groups joined together under the National Committee for the Liberation of Northern Italy.

Italian Resistance partisans after the liberation of Florance

Once Mussolini was eradicated, a ‘crisis of conscience’ occurred through the masses that affected women just as potently as the men. Very soon after Mussolini’s demise, the Women’s Defense Groups began in Milan to coincide with the National Committee of the Liberation of Northern Italy. A major piece of women’s’ contributions to the cause were grassroots mobilization, as well as the legitimization of women’s roles in politics, particularly through the efforts of the Union of Italian Catholic Women and the Union of Italian Women.

The Western European world had never seen such a large involvement of women in a resistance movement such as this before, it was extremely unique, especially considering the traditional roles of Italian women. In Italy, women were expected, and often lived up to such expectations, to be nurture’s of good and the foundation of the family. These admirable qualities undoubtedly enhanced women’s participation in the resistance movement. Their involvement was not only a means to fight Fascism that was crippling their country, but also a means to gain independence for women in general, breaking the traditional and religious stereotypes of the time. However, preserving family values and traditions was at the utmost importance to those women and it would only been natural for them to take up arms against those who would threaten the safety of their families.
Women in the Resistance
The occupations women performed for the movements were vital to the resistance survival. They took care of the food, clothing, and medical supplies, typically from the comfort of their own kitchens. However, their most important role was collecting information and communication. These women were the perfect candidates for clandestine communications and operations. They were the least suspect by the ‘establishment’ and they would be able to get close to unsuspecting men discussing their political agendas and plans. However, these women were not only talented as messengers, but as fighters as well. They were mostly tasked with sabotage, minor strike attacks, and serve as auxiliary to the Brigades.
Partisans celebrating victory

Through their hard work, sacrifice, and determination, these brave Italian resistance fighting women were able to make headway in equal opportunity for themselves after war’s end, and the first order of business was granting them the vote. By 1948, Italy was declared a democratic republic, which guaranteed equality for all, no matter their sex, religion, race, or opinion.

Take Care,
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