A Political History of National Citizenship and Identity in Italy, 1861-1950

By Sabina Donati | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
“Becoming Visible”
Italian Women and Their Male Co-Citizens
in the Liberal State

The history of the civic umbilical cord linking the Italian subjects to their state is a “divided” history—as in many other countries—since women and men have been part of it on different terms. Most importantly, when women would appear formally absent from this history, they were, in fact, present: the only thing is that they could not be seen because their citizen status was in the shadow of their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons. Citizenship—understood both as a mode of acquisition and a mode of exercise—has touched the lives of women and men in various ways and through distinct paths. For instance, throughout the centuries and until recently, wives and mothers—in contrast to husbands and fathers— were discriminated against in nationality matters concerning loss of citizen status and maternal jus sanguinis; also, with regard to the extension of civil, political and social rights, female and male co-citizens did not go through the same dynamic of inclusion and exclusion.

By looking at the Italian case study between 1866 and 1922, this chapter aims at analyzing and discussing Italy’s citizenship policies, throughout the liberal decades, vis-à-vis its female nationals without forgetting the other history of citizenship: the one concerning the Italian male counterpart. After all, womanhood and manhood are relational categories, and if “talking about women without talking about men is like clapping hands with one hand only,” the opposite is also true.1 Hence, the importance of making women “visible” within the history of Italian citizenship and of studying female and male perspective(s) together.2 Also, to grasp the extent to which Italian female membership status shared similarities with, but also differed from, that of contemporary women elsewhere, parallels and contrasts will be drawn with the British and French cases. And finally, in line with our previous pages, the chapter will complement

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