The Italian State, the Catholic Church and Women

Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements book series (PSHSM)


When Italy underwent immense social, economic and political transformations in the early part of the twentieth century, the material rewards of the modernization process were unevenly distributed, just as the unification of Italy previously had brought very few benefits, if any, to the majority of the population. The one group which, in particular, saw no improvement to its condition was women, as they continued to be discriminated against by limited access to education and employment, unequal treatment under the law and disenfranchisement. The Catholic Church, the only truly unifying element of the country at the time of Unification, had become a bitter enemy of the Italian State after losing its temporal power. In these circumstances, women and their organizations proved crucial to the Church in dealing with its perceived adversaries: the State, the political left and modern society. To appreciate fully the social and political role which the Catholic women’s movements played in this period, it is necessary to examine their contemporary context. With this objective, Section I explores the broad setting of post-Unification Italy and the troubled path of Church-State relations, and Section II looks more specifically at women’s position in Italian society from the Risorgimento to World War II.


Civil Code Italian Woman Royal Decree Liberal Government Temporal Power 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Denis Mack Smith, The Making of Italy 1796–1866, 2nd ed., Basingstoke, Hampshire, Macmillan, 1992, pp. 84–110.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Martin Clark, Modern Italy 1871–1995, 2nd ed., London, Longman, 1997, p. 37.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Judith Jeffrey Howard, “Patriot Mothers in the Post-Risorgimento: Women after the Italian Revolution”, in Carol R. Berkin and Clara M. Lovett (eds.), Women, War, and Revolution, New York, Holmes & Meier, 1980, p. 238.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    E. K. Bramsted and K. J. Melhuish, “The Tyranny of the Majority and the Right to Non-Conformity: Introduction”, in E. K. Bramsted and K. J. Melhuish (eds.), Western Liberalism: A History in Documents from Locke to Croce, London, Longman, 1978, pp. 578–581.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Christopher Seton-Watson, Italy from Liberalism to Fascism: 1870–1925, London, Methuen, 1967, p. 51.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    John A. Davis, “Introduction: Italy’s Difficult Modernization”, in John A. Davis (ed.), Italy in the Nineteenth Century, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 20.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Christopher Duggan, The Force of Destiny: A History of Italy since 1796, London, Penguin Books, 2008, p. 313.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    Richard Bosworth, Italy and the Approach of the First World War, London, Macmillan, 1983, p. 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 15.
    John Pollard, Catholicism in Modern Italy, London, Routledge, 2008, p. 50.Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    Luciano Cafagna, “The Industrial Revolution in Italy 1830–1914”, in Carlo M. Cipolla (ed.), The Fontana Economic History of Europe: The Emergence of Industrial Societies: Part One, London, Collins/Fontana, 1973, p. 281.Google Scholar
  11. 24.
    Elda Gentili Zappi, If Eight Hours Seem Too Few: Mobilization of Women Workers in the Italian Rice Fields, Albany, N.Y., State University of New York, 1991, p. 125.Google Scholar
  12. 27.
    Maurice F. Neufeld, Italy: School for Awakening Countries, Westport, Conn., Greenwood, 1974, p. 520.Google Scholar
  13. 30.
    Lucy Riall, “Progress and Compromise in Liberal Italy”, The Historical Journal, v. 38, n. 1, March 1995, p. 209. Commentary onCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Raffaella Gherardi’s book L’arte del compromesso. La politica della mediazione nell’Italia liberale, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1988.Google Scholar
  15. 31.
    Spencer Di Scala, Dilemmas of Italian Socialism: The Politics of Filippo Turati, Amherst, Mass., University of Massachusetts Press, 1980, p. 116.Google Scholar
  16. 32.
    Raffaele Romanelli, L’Italia liberale 1861–1900, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1990, p. 322.Google Scholar
  17. 36.
    Francesco Malgeri, “Leone XIII”, in Enciclopedia Italiana (ed.) Enciclopedia dei papi, v. 3, Rome, Enciclopedia Italiana, 2000, pp. 575–593; Maurilio Guasco, “Pio X, santo”, in Enciclopedia dei papi, v. 3, pp. 593–608; Gabriele De Rosa, “Benedetto XV”, in Enciclopedia dei papi, v. 3, pp. 608–617; Francesco Margiotta Broglio, “Pio XI”, in Enciclopedia dei papi, v. 3, pp. 617–632.Google Scholar
  18. 37.
    Martin Papenheim, “Roma o morte: Culture Wars in Italy”, in Christopher Clark and Wolfram Kaiser (eds.), Culture Wars: Secular-Catholic Conflict in Nineteenth-Century Europe, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 203–204.Google Scholar
  19. 38.
    Guido De Ruggiero, The History of European Liberalism, Boston, Mass., Beacon, 1959, p. 335.Google Scholar
  20. 41.
    A.C. Jemolo, Church and State in Italy 1850–1950, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1960, pp. 49–50.Google Scholar
  21. 42.
    Ronald S. Cunsolo, “Nationalists and Catholics in Giolittian Italy: An Uneasy Collaboration”, The Catholic Historical Review, v. 79, 1993, p. 23.Google Scholar
  22. 46.
    Angelo Gambasin, Il movimento sociale nell’Opera dei congressi (1874–1904), Rome, Editrice Università Gregoriana, 1958, pp. 15–16.Google Scholar
  23. 48.
    Frank J. Coppa, The Modern Papacy since 1789, London, Longman, 1998, p. 149.Google Scholar
  24. 50.
    John F. Pollard, Benedict XV. The Pope of Peace, London, Continuum, 2005, pp. 172–175.Google Scholar
  25. 57.
    Paolo Pecorari, “Toniolo, Giuseppe”, in Francesco Traniello and Giorgio Campanini (eds.), Dizionario storico del movimento cattolico in Italia 1860–1980, II: I protagonisti, Turin, Marietti, 1982, pp. 636–644.Google Scholar
  26. 73.
    Guido Calogero, “Church and State in Italy: The Constitutional Issues”, International Affairs, v. 35, n. 1, January 1959, p. 36. The Roman Catholic religion was recognized as the sole religion of the State, but this principle was not enforced in Liberal Italy.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 78.
    Giuseppe Mazzini, Dei doveri dell’uomo/Fede e avvenire, ed. Paolo Rossi, 2nd edition, Milan, Mursia, 1972, pp. 66–72.Google Scholar
  28. 79.
    Judith Jeffrey Howard, “Patriot Mothers in the Post-Risorgimento: Women after the Italian Revolution”, in Carol R. Berkin and Clara M. Lovett (eds.), Women, War, and Revolution, New York, Holmes & Meier Publishers, 1980, p. 239.Google Scholar
  29. 81.
    Ginevra Conti Odorisio, Storia dell’idea femminista in Italia, Turin, ERI, 1980, p. 101.Google Scholar
  30. 83.
    Emilia Sarogni, La donna italiana 1861–2000. Il lungo cammino verso i diritti, 2nd edition, Milan, NET, 2004, p. 9.Google Scholar
  31. 87.
    Perry Willson, Women in Twentieth-Century Italy, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, p. 7.Google Scholar
  32. 89.
    Mark Seymour, Debating Divorce in Italy: Marriage and the Making of Modern Italians, 1860–1974, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, p. 18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 96.
    Franca Pieroni Bortolotti, “Introduzione”, in Anna Maria Mozzoni, La liberazione della donna, ed. Franca Pieroni Bortolotti, Milan, Gabriele Mazzotta, 1975, pp. 13–14.Google Scholar
  34. 99.
    Il Novecento delle italiane. Una storia ancora da raccontare, Rome, Editori Riuniti, 2001, p. 71.Google Scholar
  35. 103.
    Mariolina Graziosi, La donna e la storia, Naples, Liguori, 2000, p. 11.Google Scholar
  36. 108.
    Mary Gibson, Prostitution and the State of Italy, 1860–1915, New Brunswick, N.J., Rutgers University Press, 1986, pp. 20–21.Google Scholar
  37. 114.
    Perry Willson, “Introduction: Gender and the Private Sphere in Liberal and Fascist Italy”, in Perry Willson (ed.), Gender, Family and Sexuality, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, p. 12.Google Scholar
  38. 118.
    Daniele Marchesini, “L’analfabetismo femminile nell’Italia dell’Ottocento: Caratteristiche e dinamiche”, in Simonetta Soldani (ed.), L’educazione delle donne. Scuole e modelli di vita femminile nell’Italia dell’Ottocento, 2nd edition, Milan, Franco Angeli, 1991, p. 41.Google Scholar
  39. 119.
    Michela De Giorgio, Le italiane dall’Unità a oggi, Rome, Laterza, 1993, p. 411.Google Scholar
  40. 125.
    Annamaria Galoppini, Le studentesse dell’Università di Pisa (1875–1940), Pisa, Edizioni ETS, 2011, pp. 28–29. The figures quoted add up to a total of 5,365. Galoppini cites from p. 634 of V. Ravà, “Le laureate in Italia”, Bollettino ufficiale della Pubblica istruzione, 3 April, 1902.Google Scholar
  41. 128.
    Maria Pia Paoli, “Percorsi di genere alla Scuola normale: Le allieve (1889–1929/1952–1955)”, in Clueb (ed.) Annali di storia delle università italiane, Bologna, Clueb, 2011, pp. 274–275.Google Scholar
  42. 138.
    Victoria De Grazia, How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy, 1922–1945, Berkeley, Calif., University of California Press, 1992, pp. 155–156.Google Scholar
  43. 141.
    Franca Pieroni Bortolotti, “Osservazioni sull’occupazione femminile durante il fascismo”, in Sul movimento politico delle donne. Scritti inediti, ed. Annarita Buttafuoco, Rome, Utopia, 1987, p. 182.Google Scholar
  44. 145.
    Maria Mignini, Diventare storiche dell’arte. Una storia di formazione e professionalizzazione in Italia e in Francia (1900–40), Rome, Carocci, 2009, p. 74. See also Galoppini, Le studentesse dell’Università di Pisa, pp. 15–16, footnote 19.Google Scholar
  45. 147.
    Francesca Tacchi, Eva togata. Donne e professioni giuridiche in Italia dall’Unità a oggi, Turin, UTET, 2009, pp. 3–4.Google Scholar
  46. 158.
    Gloria Chianese, Storia sociale della donna in Italia (1800–1980), Naples, Guida Editori, 1980, pp. 30, 47.Google Scholar
  47. 166.
    Mariolina Graziosi, “Gender Struggle and the Social Manipulation and Ideological Use of Gender Identity in the Interwar Years”, in Robin Pickering-Iazzi (ed.), Mothers of Invention: Women, Italian Fascism, and Culture, Minneapolis, Minn., University of Minnesota Press, 1995, pp. 36–37.Google Scholar
  48. 178.
    Anna Maria Mozzoni, “La donna e i suoi rapporti sociali”, in Franca Pieroni Bortolotti (ed.), La liberazione della donna, Milan, Gabriele Mazzotta, 1975, pp. 33–90.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Helena Dawes 2014

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations