For decades it has been called ‘a contribution’. But the role of women was much more: they chose the resistance movement without being chased by a postcard, they chose, despite being citizens without rights, not even the basic vote that they would have exercised for the first time in the March administrative election 1945 and in the political of June 2, 1946. It was not a matter of course that Marisa Cinciari remembered – who was the wife of Franco Rodano -, born in 1921, biased and then engaged in politics: “A right that was recognized in extremism on the last day of the composition of the electoral rolls, at the end of January ’45, but it was not, as some claim, a benevolent concession, but the necessary recognition of the decisive contribution which women with arms in hand and, above all, with widespread mass action, in support of the resistance movement, had made to the liberation of the country “.
Without women, resistance would not have been possible. This was clearly stated by Lidia Brisca Menapace, born in 1924, nom de guerre ‘Bruna’, second lieutenant of the Rabellotti division operating in the Ossola Valley, then a prominent figure in politics and the pacifist movement. Covid took it away in 2020, but until recently, Lidia reiterated that women was a crucial contribution. It was they who provided shelter and helped the army disintegrate after September 8, who guaranteed the connections between the plains and the mountains by carrying weapons and messages, who hid refugees and illegal immigrants, in short, who organized the ‘civilian resistance’, in the years that followed, both politics and historiography were greatly neglected.
But how many women were involved in the partisan struggle? Difficult to answer accurately. According to the ANPI (National Association of Italian Partisans), those involved in the women’s defense groups were 70,000, those who at the end of the war were awarded the official recognition of ‘combat partisan’ 35,000 (against 150,000 men), 1070 they fell in battle, 4653 were arrested and tortured, 2750 were deported to Germany, 2812 were shot or hanged. The gold medals awarded were 19.
But these are certainly underestimations. And not a little. The criteria for receiving recognition as a ‘fighter partisan’ were only suitable for men: having been part of a formation for at least three months (in the mountains) or six months (on the plains) and having participated in at least three armed acts. Women in the mountains rarely went there, and even less often someone entrusted them with a weapon.
But after all, the resistance movement was a period of basic consciousness and a strong driving force for liberation. Exiled from fascism and a general macho culture to the role of wives, mothers, mares, women were poorly educated and often unaware of genuine state discrimination. Royal Decree 2480 of 9 December 1926 excluded women from competing as principals and from teaching certain subjects in high schools, while the pagan reform of 1923 already forbade them to run high schools. Law No 221 of 1934 and then of 5 September 1938 would make it possible to determine the exclusion of women from the selection orders, setting a limit of 10% for the employment of female staff in public and private offices and establishing a number of jobs prohibited for “reasons of physical inadequacy or because of the characteristics of the job itself”.
The war, however, will find the factories and offices full of women doing ‘man’ jobs while busy at the front. There will be many workers who risk deportation by striking for bread and against the war in the great mobilizations in 1943, the year in which the women’s defense groups were also born, formations that supported the resistance movement. But despite the commitment, the risks taken and the bloodshed as soon as the liberation has taken place, the women are encouraged to step aside. In many partisan parades celebrating the victory, they are asked not to participate or, if they find it really necessary, to do so wearing a skirt. Men return to factories, women return to families. But first, they still experience an exciting moment, which can only be the first time. On June 2, 1946, they vote to elect the members of the Constituent Assembly and to the referendum between the monarchy and the republic.
That Corriere della Sera he writes: “It is better to go to the seat without lipstick. Since the card must be glued and must not show any signs of recognition, women while wetting the flap to be glued with their lips may inadvertently leave you some lipstick and in this case invalidate their voice. “With or without lipstick, 12,998. 131 women vote against 11,949,056 men, and the first 21 parliamentarians at the time called ‘constituent mothers’ will sit on the benches of the Constituent Assembly (nine for DC, nine for PCI, two for PSIUP and one for Everyman Front). Five of them would then join the 75 Commission responsible for writing the Constitutional Charter: Maria Federici, Angela Gotelli, Lina Merlin, Teresa Noce and Nilde Iotti.
Years later, Tina Anselmi, partisan and in 1976 the first female minister in the history of the Italian Republic, summed up the feelings of June 2 as follows: “And since the first election, the Italians have participated in a larger number of men sweeping away the many fears with those whom he feared it was risky to give us the right to vote because we were not sufficiently liberated.We were not ready.Women’s time has always been a mystery to men.And I still see with regret that the exams are not over yet for us. As if being a man was a transition to democratic consciousness! “