Women “are Italy’s heart, face, and backbone. Their hopes, projects, and suffering enliven the social fabric of the country.” With these words, President of the Italian Republic greeted Italian women during the ceremony at the Quirinal Palace, on the occasion of the International Women’s Day. His speech touched on all the topics and issues concerning the female population. He dwelt especially on the extension of the right to vote to women, whose 70th anniversary falls this year, and opened the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Italian Republic, which will mark 2016.
1946 was a very important historical date for Italy: the watershed between the fascist dictatorship and the Italian Republic, between the systematic limitation of the freedom of expression and thought, of press and association, and the beginning of recognition of the civil rights, starting from women’s right to vote, an achievement reached with struggles, sacrifices, losses, and the courage of many Italians who personally have been able to firmly give voice to the legitimate citizenship demands of the female population. Certainly, Italy was traveling in this direction with considerable delay, compared to other European countries, but perhaps it gave it the enthusiasm and the emotions of that moment the special characteristic of a crowned dream.
In fact, it happened in Italy forty years after Finland, the first European country to recognize women’s suffrage in 1906. It was followed Norway in 1913, Denmark in 1915, Ireland and Germany in 1918, the Netherlands and Sweden in 1919, Britain in 1928, and finally Spain in 1931. After Italy, they were recognized in Greece in 1952, Switzerland in 1971, and in Portugal in 1976.
On June 2, 1946 the first free elections were held in which partook all Italian citizens over 21 years of age, men and women, called to choose between Monarchy and Republic.
Also the deputies of the Constituent Assembly were chosen and entrusted which the task of drafting the Constitution. There were 21% women in the Constituent group, only 4%, but it was definitely an outstanding achievement for a country that until then had seen women only as “exemplary mothers and wives.”
In quality of Women’s National Coordination of the CISL Syndicate, we want to recall the names of the women in this group, whose behavior played a key role – even at the cost of clashing openly with the regime – in leading Italy towards civil and democratic freedoms. These women actively contributed also to the drafting of our “wonderful” Constitution: Adele Bei Ciufoli (Pci), Bianca Bianchi (Psi), Laura Bianchini (Dc), Elisabetta Conci (Dc), Maria De Unterrichter Jervolino (Dc), Filomena Delli Castelli (Dc), Maria Federici Agamben (Dc), Nadia Gallico Spano (Pci), Angela Gotelli (Dc), Angela Maria Guidi Cingolani (Dc), Nilde (Leonilde) Iotti (Pci), Teresa Matte (Pci), Angelina Merlin (Psi), Angiola Minella Molinari (Pci), Rita Montagnana Togliatti (Pci), Maria Nicotra Verzotto (Dc), Teresa Noce Longo (Pci), Ottavia Penna Buscemi (Fronte Liberale Democratico dell’Uomo Qualunque), Elettra Pollastrini (Pci), Maria Maddalena Rossi (Pci), Vittoria Titomanlio (Dc).
Now, it is up to all of us, each insofar as it concerns them, to make sure we do not lose this achievement and carry on our commitment to achieving women’s full participation in the political and democratic life of the country with the same enthusiasm and the same determination. CISL Syndicate, as the Italian Secretary General stated, remains in the front line, because “valorizing women means looking not only at women’s development and future, but of the whole country.”