The search for paternity is one of the battles of Italian feminism between the XIX and XX centuries. Some generations of women demanded the abolition of the article 189 of the Civil Code, which, betraying the founding principles of the Liberal State, mirrored a notion of the family and of society based on hierarchy and inequality. Feminists put forward actions of complaint and proposals of reform with the support of medical doctors, politicians, philanthropists and lawyers of democratic orientation. Their aim was to keep alive the attention on this dramatic and widespread issue, but their action fell short of solving the problem. Adopting a long term view, this essay aims at analyzing the initiatives of the women’s movement and its ability to interact with institutions while adapting its strategy to the resistance of mainstream lawyers and of the Parliament.