10 Italian Feminists You Should Know

Throughout my studies of feminism in the academic setting, I have rarely (if ever) heard mention of Italian feminists. In my own personal research, I have found many. For all your Italian feminist needs, look no further! Laura Cereta (1469-1499)

Author who was highly criticized for publishing her own writing. Scholars have said that her letters laid the groundwork for feminism during the Enlightenment period. Cereta wrote often about women's right to education and fought oppression of married women. She was well educated, and thus privileged enough to be able to partake in letter writing when many women during her time were not.

Veronica Franco (1546-1591)

A poet and courtesan in Venice, she published books of letters and collected the works of other leading writers into anthologies. Franco also founded a charity for courtesans and their children. She was later accused of witchcraft (which was a common complaint of courtesans), but the charges were soon dropped. She once wrote:

When we too are armed and trained, we can convince men that we have hands, feet, and a heart like yours; and although we may be delicate and soft, some men who are delicate are also strong; and others, coarse and harsh, are cowards. Women have not yet realized this, for if they should decide to do so, they would be able to fight you until death; and to prove that I speak the truth, amongst so many women, I will be the first to act, setting an example for them to follow.

Anna Maria Mozzoni (1837-1920)

Known as the founder of the Italian Women's Movement. In 1864, Mozzoni wrote a feminist critique of Italian family law, and presented a petition to parliament for women's suffrage. Twelve years later, Mozzoni represented Italy at the International Congress on Women's Rights in Paris. In 1881 she also founded the League for the Promotion of the Interests of Women (Lega promotrice degli interessi femminili) in Milan.

Lidia Poët (1855-1949)

First modern female advocate. Having received her law degree from the University of Torino, Poët was placed in the role of advocates. After seeing this, the Office of the Attorney General filed a complaint arguing that Poët's role as advocate was "illegal." Poët appealed to the court, and debates erupted. Eventually, under Law n. 1176 of July 17, 1919, women were allowed to hold certain public offices. One year later, at the age of 65, Poët was finally inscribed in the role of advocates.

Sibilla Aleramo (1876-1960)

Author known for her writing on life as a woman in 19th century Italy. Since women in Italy could not go beyond elementary schooling, Aleramo continued studying on her own. At 15, she got a job at her father's factory. While in the office, Aleramo was raped by a co-worker. She never told her parents and, in fact, was persuaded to marry her rapist--which she did. She had her first and only child with this man.

The first book Aleramo wrote, Una donna (A Woman), was about her decision to leave her husband and son. After moving to Rome, Aleramo had a couple different relationships, one was with a woman named, Lina Poletti. Many of Aleramo's personal letters to Poletti continue to be studied for their open minded views regarding homosexuality.

Maria Roda (1877-?)

I've devoted a whole blog post to Roda before here. She was an anarchist feminist, who consistently fought for women's equality and worker's rights. In 1897, Roda founded an anarchist women’s group called, Gruppo Emancipazione della Donna (Women’s Emancipation Group). Infamous anarchist feminist, Emma Goldman, was a fan.

Letizia Battaglia (1935-)

Sicilian photographer and photojournalist known for her documentation of the mafia. Battaglia sometimes found herself at the scene of four or five different murders in a single day.

Adriana Monti (1951-)

Filmmaker and screen writer, Monti (not pictured) has been making feminist films since the 1970s. Perhaps her most known work, "Scuola senza fine (School without end)", centered around a group of former housewives, who had completed a 150 hour secondary school course in 1976. Once the women completed the course, they didn't want to stop learning. The women formed a research and study group with the aid of their teacher. Later, in 1986, Monti made a film called, "Filo a catena", which was about the conditions of female textile workers.

Giorgiana Masi (1958-1977)

18-year-old, Giorgiana Masi, was killed while supporting a feminist demonstration for legal abortion in 1977 in Rome, Italy. Her killer was never found. However, in 2008, Masi's case was re-opened. Like Neda, Masi became the face of young Italian women's struggles against political injustices. Women placed a plaque on the spot she died on the Trastevere side of the Garibaldi bridge. Ana Noon has translated the plaque:

If the October Revolution had only been in May. If you were still alive if I weren’t powerless in front of your murder If my pen were a winning weapon if my fear could explode in the streets courage born of rage strangled in my throat If having known you could become our strength If the flowers that we gave to your courageous life in our death at least had become garlands of the struggle of women Then… it wouldn’t be words searching for life but life itself without adding anything.

-anonymous

Melissa Panarello (1985-)

Writer best known for her first novel, 100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed. Panarello was published under the pseudonym, "Melissa P." in 2004, as her first novel was deemed "erotic", because it discussed the teenage narrator's sexual awakening(s) in depth (loosely based on the author's own experiences). From her blog, Paranello states:

When I was a kid, no one had ever spoken about female emancipation, because in my house there was a strict policy, and efficient women who saw the house on top of the pyramid, followed by children, then animals, then men.

There are SO many more awesome Italian feminists, but this gives you a little taste :)