Peasant women were the largest female occupational group in Italy between the wars. They led lives characterised by great poverty and heavy workloads, but Fascist propaganda extolled them as the mothers of the nation and the guardians of the rural worlds, the most praiseworthy of Italian women.
This study is the first published history of the Massaie Rurali, the Fascist Party's section for peasant women, which, with three million members by 1943, became one of the largest of the regime's mass mobilizing organizations. The section played a key role in such core fascist campaigns as nation-building and ruralization. Perry Willson draws on a wide range of archival and contemporary press sources to investigate the nature of the Massaie Rurali and the dynamics of class and gender that lay at its heart. She explores the organization's political message, its propaganda and the reasons why so many women joined it.
Introduction 1. Peasant Women, the Rural World and the Fasci Femminili 2. Ladies in the Field: Women's Farm Education, the Unione delle Massaie della Campagna and Domus Rustica 3. "An Extraordinary Thing " The National Fascist Federation of Massaie Rurali 4. "Going to the People" The Massaie Rurali Section of the Fasci Femminili 5. "Into Every Farmhouse and Cottage": Propaganda in Print 6. "Women with a Hundred Arms" The Training Programme 7. At the Gates of Rome: the Sant'Alessio Training College 8. A Dopolavoro for Rural Women? Radio, Film and Folklore 9. Recruiting for the Nation. Why did Three Million Join the Massaie Rurali?