Italian Women and International Cold War Politics, 1944-1968

Italian Women and International Cold War Politics, 1944-1968

Italian Women and International Cold War Politics, 1944-1968

Italian Women and International Cold War Politics, 1944-1968

Synopsis

The women of the Socialist/Communist Unione Donne Italiane (UDI) and the lay Catholic Centro Italiano Femminile (CIF) are the protagonists in this keen study of the relationship between national Italian women's associations and international women's movements from 1944, when the associationsbecame active, to 1968, when another generation of activists led women's movements in a new direction. By considering the reach and impact of these organizations in relation to Italian bipolarism (the nearly equal division of the Italian people into two camps, one pro-Communist and the otherpro-Western) and world events, Dr. Wendy Pojmann demonstrates that women played a much larger role than Cold War histories tend to relate. Not just voters, women were active political participants during the tumultuous decades of the Cold War. Italian Women in International Cold War Politics, 1944-1968 pays particular attention to the UDI's work with the largest international postwar women's organization, the pro-Soviet Women's International Democratic Federation (WIDF), and the CIF's relationship with the global Catholic organization the World Movement of Mothers (WMM), to better understand the ways in which the Cold War affected both national and international agendas for women's rights.The Italian case is particularly significant in placing women's movements in a broader context because it exemplifies many of the political and ideological dichotomies that characterized this period. With the Christian Democrats at the helm of the Italian government and the powerful opposition ofthe Communists, the Italian women's associations developed and used creative negotiation strategies to advance their visions of womanhood in a new era. They applied similar practices in their international work.This engaging, well-documented book draws on new and original material from archival collections and oral histories to develop a critical understanding of the important but often overlooked period in women's activism between the 1940s and 1970s.

Excerpt

The women of the left-leaning Unione Donne Italiane (UDI) and the lay Catholic Centro Italiano Femminile (CIF) have long filled my thoughts and many pages of my writing over the past decade. It was not until I was putting the finishing touches on an article, however, that I was struck by an absence in my own research about these two women’s associations, which were active throughout the post–World War II era. Though I had explored the role of the associations in an Italian national framework and had recently criticized their failure to incorporate the experiences of migrant women, I had not really taken the UDI and the CIF out of Italy and placed them in a global framework. An examination of the national context in relation to the Cold War international activities of the Italian women’s associations, it occurred to me, would warrant a book-length study. I wanted to better understand the ways in which Italian women weighed in on the national political situation but also how their work in Italy was informed by and influenced international developments.

The “missing” international piece of the histories of the UDI and the CIF is the very one that makes them so relevant to the dynamics of the Cold War and to the course of worldwide women’s movements. While much recent work in women’s history has emphasized the multifaceted experiences of women during World War II or the dynamism of the feminist movements of the 1970s, few studies have examined women as political actors during the in-between decades. I want to suggest a more continuous approach that considers the postwar era in relation to earlier and later periods. The two Italian women’s associations considered here transformed women’s experiences from the early days of an Italian state through the contradictions of fascism and into the turmoil of the Resistance. When they emerged from the war, stronger and more determined than before, the world was no longer the same. What had been . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.