Femininity under fire : women in Italy during the first world war / by Allison Scardino Belzer.
This dissertation aims to answer the following questions: What did Italian society expect of women during wartime? Chapter One examines pamphlets, speeches, and articles aimed at women that outline popular ideas about how they should participate. What were Italian women actually contributing to the war effort? Chapter Two discusses female war work at the home front, with special attention to middle-class women's unpaid contributions. What was the war like along the Italian Front? Chapter Three moves the focus from the home front to the war front by describing daily life patterns along with the chronology and geography of the war. What were women at the front experiencing, and what did they think about their unique position as women witnessing war? Chapters Four and Five rely on diaries and memoirs written by men and women from Italy, Austria, Britain, and the United States to flesh out women's varied experiences. Finally, what was the legacy of the war for women in Italy? Chapter Six follows the relationship between women and the state through the early years of Mussolini's Fascism. Because of the war crisis, women were treated as citizens for the first time. Both government and public opinion expected women to contribute to the national war effort, and by dubbing those contributions as vital, they politicized women. The Italian government refused to grant women the vote after the war, but it continued to recognize women as citizens. This identification of women as important members of civil society continued as the Liberal state collapsed and Mussolini took power. Fascist values, like those of the Great War, assigned women an important role in achieving victory. They were expected to put aside personal ambition in favor of glorifying the state through motherhood. Historians have overlooked the fact that many women found this ideal an attractive proposal. Italian women kept the status as citizens that they had earned during the war, while simultaneously returning to normalcy by seeing themselves primarily as wives and mothers. This “patriotic motherhood,” while far from female emancipation, was a major step for women toward gaining an independent place outside the home.
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