Emancipation or Liberation?: Women's Associations and the Italian Movement

By Pojmann, Wendy | The Historian, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

Emancipation or Liberation?: Women's Associations and the Italian Movement


Pojmann, Wendy, The Historian


ENGLISH-LANGUAGE SCHOLARSHIP on Italian feminism and its relationship to its European and American counterparts has blossomed in the past decades. (1) The unique case of Italy, with its often tumultuous twentieth-century history, provides an exciting focal point for studies of women's movements throughout the world. When the fascist government of Benito Mussolini fell, and a democratic government was established in June 1944, Italian women could not vote, divorce was not recognized, and abortion was illegal. (2) Today Italian women enjoy the benefits of advanced political and social rights, but few Anglo-American readers are familiar with the women's movement in Italy. This is in part because the process by which these changes were achieved has received little attention from general post-World War II historians, and while specific studies on the Italian women's movement have been undertaken, these remain for the most part untranslated. (3) Within that scholarship, the birth of the women's movement in Italy in the years after World War II, and the later emergence of feminism in Italy in the late 1960s, has generally been characterized as a conflict between emancipation and liberation. Emancipation means working from within existing systems and trying to change them, whereas liberation implies a complete overthrow of the status quo. The programs promoted by large Italian women's associations, such as the Catholic Centro Italiano Femminile (CIF) and the left-affiliated Unione Donne Italiane (UDI), both of which were founded during the Italian Resistance, have been interpreted as emancipationist rather than liberationist. The smaller women's groups that emerged throughout Italy in the late 1960s and 1970s have been viewed as the main force leading women away from male-dominated institutions and toward a more liberated position. (4)

When the emancipation versus liberation theme is not taken up directly in the literature, authors instead minimize the contributions of associations like the UDI and the CIF or treat the feminist collectives as the primary vehicles for the advancement of women in Italy. Don Meyer, for example, states that the UDI was little more than an instrument for the Italian Communist Party (PCI). (5) Paola Bono and Sandra Kemp see the Catholic Church and its female adherents as adversaries of the promotion of women's rights and so make no mention of the CIF in their anthology of Italian feminist writing. (6) Luisa Passerini does suggest that the UDI, along with other historical women's movements of the pre-1968 period, may have been "relegated unjustly to the realm of emancipationism," but she does not offer a detailed account of the relationship of these groups to the feminist movement. (7) Even within the Italian-language literature, the women's movement is generally treated in a pre-1968 and post-1968 framework, with some more recent studies taking a post-feminist approach. (8)

Here I want to argue that the histories of the UDI and the CIF should not be dismissed as emancipationist and that the use of 1968 as a dividing point in the Italian women's movement is not useful in understanding its complexities. Instead, the UDI and the CIF should be seen as important models for operating as autonomous women's associations in post-World War II Italy and as central forces in a continuous women's movement. The women of the UDI and the CIF provided the women of the feminist groups an example of how to, and in some cases how not to, interact with Italy's political parties, trade unions, the Catholic Church, and other women's groups. They also set agendas as to which issues to approach and how to appeal to the largest number of women possible. In doing so, they laid the groundwork for the feminist collectives that would later label these historic organizations as merely "emancipationist." Although the division between large women's associations and the smaller feminist groups became more significant by the end of the 1970s, both the UDI and the CIF survived as organizations despite the challenges posed by the broader political situation and women's movement.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Emancipation or Liberation?: Women's Associations and the Italian Movement
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.