In 1922, amidst tumultuous upheaval and near civil war in parts of the country, Benito Mussolini seized power. By 1925 Italy was in the iron grip of dictatorship. A considerable historiography now exists on the role and experience of Italian women in this period, much of it in English. Italian historians of women have been more reluctant to tackle this topic, seeing it as unpalatable compared with themes like the heroic deeds of women in the Resistance. Early writings (notably Piero Meldini’s pioneering work published in 19751) tended to portray women under Fascism as the hapless victims of an aggressive, violent and patriarchal regime. Other studies focused mainly on anti-fascist women or on evidence of female dissent, such as striking rice-weeders or textile workers.2 More recently, the work of Victoria De Grazia3 has convincingly demonstrated that this was a period of complex and contradictory changes for women and that, despite the regime’s patriarchal ideology, for some it was a time when new, more modern roles and opportunities emerged.
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