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

By Sabina Donati | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
Citizenship of Women and
Their Counterpart Throughout the
Ventennium

In liberal Italy female citizenship enjoyed a specificity of its own in comparison with the corresponding male membership status. In Chapter Two, whose purpose was to make the female part of the population visible within the history of Italian citizenship, we saw that Italian women (as wives and mothers) did not enjoy an independent nationality that could be retained upon marriage and be transmitted to the offspring. Fathers and husbands alone determined the national membership status of all members within the household, and this legal situation would change only from the mid-1970s. Also, the pre-1922 Italian female path toward civic, political and social inclusion in the national citizenry had a different dynamic from the civic road that was taken by the male co-citizens. This differentiated history concerning women and men in the peninsula echoed certain social concerns that, as we saw, were widespread within nineteenth-century European societies and that touched on the concepts of family union, social order, morality and ethics as well as on women’s traditional role within the domestic realm. Finally, we also saw that in pre-fascist Italy, Italian national citizenship not only had a gender flavor but was also racialized at times, due to divisive discourses circulated in certain quarters of the peninsula about Southerners on the one hand and Jews on the other.

Following the seizure of power by Mussolini in 1922 and gradual establishment of a fascist dictatorial state from 1925 on, women’s national membership went through further fundamental developments, trends as well as dilemmas that deserve to be examined in order to grasp the fascist variant of female status civitatis vis-à-vis its male counterpart. By focusing on Italian women without forgetting Italian men, this chapter analyzes several aspects of Italian national citizenship, discusses the issue of

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