Fascism and Feminism in Italy may not strike you as related ideas. Indeed, they are often more opposed than aligned. However, like much of Italy’s history, it’s more complicated than initially meets the eye.
The topics of this post could not be timelier. March is Women's History Month, and March 8th, specifically, is International Women’s Day. And unfortunately, the concept of Fascism has reared its ugly head again in recent years. I discuss this more in depth during the conversation with my guest on today’s podcast episode.
My guest is author Jennifer Anton, and she’s an American/Italian dual citizen who moved from Chicago to Milan, and now lives between London and Lake Como. (Lucky her, right?!?)
For the past 14 years, she’s been researching and writing a novel about the lives of her female ancestors and Italian midwives during the time of Mussolini's rule. Under the Light of the Italian Moon is a novel inspired by a true story of love and women's resilience during the rise of fascism and WWII. A gripping historical fiction based on a true story and heartbreaking real events.
I’ve lightly touched on the topic of feminism in Italy before, with memories of my encounters with the Neapolitan version of chivalry and the dating rules in Italy. But as my guest pointed out so correctly, I was merely recounting a man’s version of feminism, no matter how well-intended. Shame on me. Well, I didn’t have a daughter back then… but I guess that’s no excuse.
Fascism and Feminism in Italy - Between Two Wars
Nina Argenta doesn’t want the traditional life of a rural Italian woman. The daughter of a strong-willed midwife, she is determined to define her own destiny. But when her brother emigrates to America, she promises her mother to never leave.
"Under the Light of the Italian Moon"
When childhood friend Pietro Pante briefly returns to their mountain town, passion between them ignites while Mussolini forces political tensions to rise. Just as their romance deepens, Pietro must leave again for work in the coal mines of America. Nina is torn between joining him and her commitment to Italy and her mother.
As Mussolini’s fascists throw the country into chaos and Hitler’s Nazis terrorize their town, each day becomes a struggle to survive greater atrocities.
A future with Pietro seems impossible when they lose contact and Nina’s dreams of a life together are threatened by Nazi occupation and an enemy she must face alone…
Praise for Jennifer Anton’s Book
'In these populist days many of us know or have known how perplexing it is to live under a domineering leader who thinks he is always right. Back in 1922, Benito Mussolini in Italy was the first such person in modern times to scar his country's history. In this novel which mixes family memory, history and literary insight, Jennifer Anton gives us a case study from the interwar which is timeless in its themes and search for meaning.'
- Richard Bosworth, Professor R.J.B. Bosworth FASSA, FAHA, Emeritus Fellow, Jesus College Oxford, Author of Claretta: Mussolini's Last Lover
'Anton has brought to life the history and importance of the role of the rural Italian midwife and shows the world how these women brought children to the light in the middle of 1920s and 30s Italy despite intense difficulties and pressures.'
- Gaetano Manfreda, Head of Didactic Service, Department of Women's and Child Health, University of Padua
'An enthralling, richly crafted story of bold women resisting destruction, death, and fascism.'
- Robin Pickering-Iazzi, Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
You can find Jennifer's website at: Bold Woman Writing
Her book is available at the following retailers:
Click the link to check out other episodes and see my list of the best podcasts about Italy.