"Noi siamo stufe.." The Italian women's liberation movement

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2005
21 Pages, Grade: 1,0



I. Introduction

II. Historical context
II.1 From the “Italian miracle” to the “Apertura a sinistra”
II.2 The 1960s and the “Hot autumn”
II.3 Italy from 1970 to 1976

III. The women’s movement
III.1 “Casa e chiesa”
III.2 Regional diversity
III.3 Fighting for their rights

IV. Groups and movements
IV.1 Unione Donne Italiane
IV.2 Gruppo Demistificazione Autoritarismo (DEMAU)
IV.3 Movimento di liberazione della donna
IV.4 Lotta Femminista
IV.5 Auto-consciousness groups

V. Conclusion

VI. Bibliography

I. Introduction

“…di fare bambini

Lavare i piatti stirare pannolini

Avere un uomo che fa da padrone

E ci proibisce la contraccezione!

Noi siamo stufe della pubblicità

Che deforma la nostra realtà

Questa moderna schiavitù

Da oggi in poi non l’accettiamo più.”

These impressive verses are quoted from a popular protest song written by the Movimento Femminista Romano in 1973 . It already gives us a certain impression of what women felt and thought during this time. The main question is why are they unsatisfied with their own lives which they see as a form of “modern slavery”? What makes Italian women’s lives so extremely unbearable that they have enough of their husbands and the public opinion about women’s lives in the Italian society like they chant in this protest song?

The following paper will try to present the development of the Italian women’s liberation movement and how the historical context influenced women and their situation in the different regions of Italy.

Furthermore, the aim of my term-paper is twofold. On the one hand I will try to describe and analyze the historical setting and background of Italy in the 1960s and early 1970s. On the other hand my term-paper includes the analysis of the women’s living conditions in Italy during the first decades after the Second World War and shows how economical and social changes caused a new way of consciousness and thinking within the Italian society.

The main topic of the second part is a short presentation of the Italian women’s movement itself. An analysis of the contemporary living conditions is the main objective. Besides the introduction of the Italian women’s movement, I will try to present different points of view and individual aims of the single groups and how they tried to change the Italian society. In addition to this, the last chapter will pay attention to the different kinds of protest movements, trying to present some of the most important groups and unions. Nevertheless, the paper can only present a limited number of groups and movements regarding the rich diversity of the whole movement.

II. Historical context

This first chapter will present the historical situation in Italy throughout the years from the late 1950s to 1976. We will have a closer look on how the political system and its parties influenced the Italian society and how society itself responded to political changes. By describing the consequences of this influence we will try to understand the historical context to analyze the Italian women’s movement.

II.1 From the “Italian miracle” to the “Apertura a sinistra”

The first decades after the Second World War in Italy are characterised by a large number of political changes that influenced the country for a long time. Not only was the political system changed by the referendum in 1946[1], but the country also had to deal with a lot of problems after the downfall of fascism.

By drawing up the constitution for the new republic and preparing the elections of 1948, the post-war-union of the different political forces that had fought fascism successfully broke up and the party-political struggles, especially between the conservative Democrazia Cristiana and the Left parties, increased dramatically. Another reason for this development was the division of Europe by the Cold War. Withdrawing from the Italian Left Parties, especially the Partito Comunista Italiano, in domestic policies and seeking more cooperation with the other Western European countries, the Italian government[2] steadied its position towards Communism and Socialism. In the 1950s, Italy joined different international organizations, like the ECSC[3] in 1952, the EEC[4] in 1957 and the United Nations in 1955.

Thanks to international aid, like the European Recovery Program, and the membership in the different international unions, Italy managed to rebuild its industries very fast. Nevertheless, the country was still suffering from the great diversity between the industrial north and the backward south, the Mezzogiorno, and the shortage of energy and raw materials. To overcome this great problem, the government decided to form a special bank, the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno, to increase the industrial development of the south.

In the time from the mid-1950s to the late 1960s Italy experienced an enormous economic boom, especially caused by the industrial shift from agriculture to more advanced technologies. Another important factor that had a big impact on the Italian industry was the extension of the Italian transportation and communication network. In 1954 the first television programme was transmitted by the Italian broadcasting company RAI and the growing Italian film industry was a result of these times. Furthermore, new technologies like refrigerators, washing-machines and vacuum cleaners became standard in almost every Italian household. All these changes had a great impact on the Italian society. Today these years of fast economic growth and industrialisation is known as the “Italian miracle” (cf. Hellman 1987: 20). “In this period, as the role of the state expanded steadily, Italy went from a condition of post-war economic ruin to take its place as the seventh most industrialized country in the world.” (ibid: 20). More and more people started working in the second and third industrial sector, among them especially women who left their homes to work in factories or to look for other jobs that were available. This resulted in the downfall of the traditional isolation of their families. Furthermore, a big immigration wave from the villages to the more urban areas, e.g. of Torino and Milano, started. People from the South left their homes looking for better jobs in the North of Italy.

This new demographic situation deeply influenced the living conditions of the workers. It is important to mention that although the economical boom was so intensive, the Italian living standard did not increase much (cf. Ravera 1978: 227). So the demands for higher salaries, better working conditions and the improvement of the social welfare system grew stronger and stronger. The radical opposition between the conservative DC and the Left parties, i.e. PSI, PCI and the trade unions who tried to solve the social problems, became bigger again.

The elections of 1958 were won again by the DC, but the Communist Party became second strongest faction and gained 140 seats in the Italian Parliament (cf. Schwarzkopf 1986: 194). In the following years Amintore Fanfani[5], the Prime Minister, formed a Christian Democratic minority government, but because of the lacking majority in Parliament he had great difficulties to govern the country successfully. As a conclusion he paved the way for an opening to the political Left, known as the “Apertura a Sinistra” and in 1962 a coalition with the Socialists, which had refrained from the Communists in the last years, was formed. The PSI finally accepted the entry into the NATO[6] and the other European alliances and after the elections of 1963 another coalition of the DC, PSI and some smaller Socialist parties was founded. Not only had the governing parties developed a lot towards a more moderate way; even the PCI went through a lot of changes. Influenced by the progress of the destalinization and the death of Palmiro Togliatti[7], the Italian communists pleaded for more individual politics which means they rejected the great influence of the CPSU[8] and initiated their own way towards socialism. In the elections in 1963, the PCI already gained 25,3% of the votes and became the second strongest party again.

II.2 The 1960s and the “Hot autumn”

As we have already seen in the last chapter, the second half of the 1950s in Italy was characterized by an intensive economic boom and rapid political changes. But not only had the political scene gone through a lot of changes, the Italian people itself developed towards a more industrialized, modern society.

One important aspect was the analysis of the contemporary Italian history, especially the Fascist era and the role of the Resistenza during the Second World War. Furthermore, the development of social sciences and other academic disciplines, like psychology or sociology, had a great impact towards a modernization of the society. New forms of participation, e.g. seminars, public discussions, lectures, created a new way of thinking. In this time, many books analyzing the Italian history from a critical point of view were published, too. After a school and academic reform a growing number of young people enrolled at universities, among them a great number of young women who were looking for a different future than the one of only being wives and mothers. In 1951 only a quarter of all students were women. Thirteen years later already 36,1% of all students were female (cf. Ergas 1986: 49f.). It was mostly students who influenced the politics and society during the 1960s analyzing their status and their own history in a critical way. A strong sentiment of democratic ideals was spread, especially among young people but also among workers, intellectuals and other sections of the Italian population (cf. Ravera 1978: 231).

In addition to the radical changes in society, Italy’s way towards the 1970s was also affected by the slow decline of the economy. After the massive economic boom, the unemployment rate and inflation increased during the 1960s. People lost faith in politics, especially in the Socialists and Communists Parties. A new extraparliamentary left, definitely influenced by the American Students’ Protests against the War in Vietnam , was created among students and workers who were disappointed about the PSI who were still in coalition with the ruling DC. Because of the disappointment about the Soviet Union’s invasion in Budapest in 1956 and in Prague in 1968, the protesters even withdraw from the PCI, as a potential political partner representing their aims. They wanted to change the political status quo without the help of the traditional mass parties. The elections of 1968 had a disastrous result for the Socialist parties.

When the unemployment rate rose enormously in the second half of the decade, the “hot autumn” was opened with mass mobilizations among workers. “During this period, strikes were so widespread that millions of man and woman hours of labor were lost in 1969 alone.” (Hellman 1987: 21). But not only the factory councils were a new form of protests and political participation, the trade union structures were renovated and democratized. During October and November 1968 the three big Italian trade unions CGIL, CISL and UIL, organized general strikes fighting for better pensions and rising salaries. Furthermore, the Extraparliamentary Left created comitati di quartiere, small neighbourhood committees, to have more influence on municipal and local politics or even autonomy. Supporting the workers in their protests for better working conditions, students fought for an improving academic situation and for a better learning at secondary schools. They occupied universities demanding e.g. better teaching methods, more students’ rights and more academic independence. Although the numbers of students had grown in the past years, the learning situation on Italian universities has not improved at all. Denying traditional ideas of morals and authority, the Extraparliamentary Left particularly refused the dogmas and values of the Catholic Church.

II.3 Italy from 1970 to 1976

The last chapter described the important events of the “Hot autumn” and the development of the New Left which had been created independently from the traditional Left parties, like the PCI and the PSI. We also realized that in this time the Catholic Church lost more and more influence on the people as well as on the Democrazia Cristiana. We can definitely notice that Italy was not longer dominated by the traditional values of the Catholic Church. The following chapter will give a description of the historical events in the first half of the 1970s

The “Hot autumn” was not limited to a short period; in fact it was a longer radical process that influenced Italy until 1975/76. What also distinguish these years are the unstable political conditions and the changing coalitions. While the government was suffering from these rapidly changing coalitions, the Italian Communist Party changed its party manifesto to a new “historical compromise”[9] accepting Italy’s integration in Western alliances with some reservations. They hoped for more participation or a coalition when the new government was formed after the elections in 1972. This new attitude of the Communist Party was also influenced by Berlinguer[10] ’s new political platform, known as “Eurocomunismo” which meant a development totally independent from the CPSU.


[1] The Repubblica Italiana was officially declared on the 18th June 1946. In the referendum on the 2nd June 1946 the majority of 54,3% of the voters decided to change the political system into a republic. The Italian king Umberto II. went into exile

[2] From 1948 to 1981 all Prime Ministers were members of the Democrazia Cristiana, the conservative party. The DC was the strongest faction in the Italian Parliament for four decades.

[3] European Coal and Steel Community

[4] European Economic Community

[5] Amintore Fanfani (1908-1999) was Prime Minister in 1954, 1958/59, 1960-63, 1982/83 and 1987.

[6] Italy was founder member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in 1949.

[7] Palmiro Togliatti (1893-1964) was one of the founding members in 1921 and later the secretary general of the PCI from 1947 till his death in 1964.

[8] Communist Party of the Soviet Union

[9] This new „compromesso storico“ refers to the time of Fascism, especially during the Second World War, when all antifascist forces and parties fought for a free Italy, irrespective of their individual dogmas, manifestos or political programmes.

[10] Enrico Berlinguer (1922-1984) was the secretary general of the PCI from 1972 until 1984. In his opinion the Communist Parties in the Western European countries should develop independently from the Soviet Union and paying more attention to the particular structure of society.

Excerpt out of 21 pages


"Noi siamo stufe.." The Italian women's liberation movement
University of Siena  (Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia in Arezzo)
"Politica, società e cultura nell'Italia degli anni Settanta"
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
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537 KB
Italian, Settanta”
Quote paper
Constanze Ackermann (Author), 2005, "Noi siamo stufe.." The Italian women's liberation movement, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/60352


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