Donne “comuni” nell’Europa della Grande Guerra. Saggio introduttivo
Roberto Bianchi e Monica Pacini
The editors introduce the main questions explored in this issue on “Ordinary” women in Europe during the First World War, starting from a critical view of recent international historiography. The centenary of the First World War is being indeed characterized by a signi cant renewal of the research on the involvement of civilians in a world at war and the role of sex and gender under military occupation regimes. This special issue is dedicated to discuss the category of “ordinary women” in relation to war experiences and their long-term effects in Italy, France, Germany and Austrian- Hungarian border provinces, by focusing on lower and middle classes. The ve essays adopt a national, regional or local scale, enhancing the perspective from below and a micro-analytic approach. They shed light on the different forms assumed by women’s patriotism and the transformation of the family and gender relations in the cities and in the countryside during the con ict; they explore the links between care and work during the war mobilization and they analyse the relationship between work, work cultures, state policies and popular protests within different urban contexts (Bremen, Trieste). The comparison of these case studies highlights the importance of the border places, cities and regions as units of analysis of a transnational gendered history of the Great War also to understand forms and consequences of the crisis in relations between élite and masses.
Margherita di Savoia was the rst Queen of Italy. Since the day of her coronation (1878), the myth of how generous and learned Margherita was, re ected at least in part the image of a new national femininity many Italian women wanted to identify with. On the eve of the Great War the lady assistant of Margherita was still receiving daily letters, gifts, and requests for support to many social and intellectual activities promoted by the rst Italian generation of “new women”. In a world dominated by men, this relationship with Margherita – Queen Mother since 1900 – represented a source of recognition of feminine authority. The letters addressed to Margherita are kept in the archive of the Home of Her Majesty the Queen Mother. This essay evaluates the letters sent to Margherita during the war. As a whole, these letters help showing the mood of the upper and middle class women throughout the European con ict. Moreover, the documents help understanding women state of mind regarding the progressive transformation occurring in their self- representation codes and also the context in which they were embedded.
The letters exchanged by Marie and Paul Loubet, a separated couple of gardeners who lived in a small wine producing town in Languedoc, provides one of the rare French testimonies about the Great War relying on a female voice, that of a woman working the soil, often as a day labourer. It had been confronted with other numerous local sources. Indeed, it is possible to apprehend the daily life of Marie, as well as that of three generations of women of one family. The war increased greatly women’s obligations and responsibilities in a newly reshaped “lived space” where men remained present. The study of these women reveals – through their words and actions – the strategies of compensation and resistance they were using to live.
During the war, middle class women (teachers, employees, housekeepers) played a crucial role in ensuring forms of social assistance – to children, families of combatants, and to soldiers themselves – which were not provided by the State. Besides an overall illustration of their experiences, this essay aims at delving into the complexity of the relationship “ordinary” women entertained with the war and its aftermath. In the performing of their activities of assistance, women found themselves in the position to act as a bridge between the desire for peace manifested by the lower classes, and the staunch support of war expressed by the military and political institutions, along with an appreciable part of the civil society. Those women lived therefore in a “suspended” dimension between two con icting worlds, neither of which they identi ed themselves with. Albeit unwillingly, they turned out to be not only an important asset, but an integral part of the process of mobilization of civil society in the war effort.
«Volemo pan, polenta e lavor»: le proteste delle donne triestine, 1914-1918
Ana Cergol Paradiž, Marta Verginella
During the First World War, the lack of food became a burning issue in many European towns. Everyday urban spaces were transformed into important points of destabilization and resistance as well as political venues in which, as consumers and housewives, women importantly participated. By using a variety of sources, especially court records, and by applying the concept of “moral economy” this paper analyzes how the women of Trieste, in particular by participating in riots, demonstrations and other smaller illegal actions related to food, fought against war shortages. The lack of food during the First World War was caused by several complex factors. Women from various European towns blamed different inducers for their plight. The authors of this essay are interested in whom the women of Trieste perceived as the main enemy and how often, according to different agents, they themselves, as participants of riots and demonstrations or as price increasers, played the role of the “enemy from within”.
In Bremen, in the North-West of Germany, the Great War’s mobilization of all the economic and human resources led to the disruption of women’s traditional areas of employment, such as household services, textile and food processing industry. It was an uneven mobilization that took the form of unskilled, low-paid labour, mainly in munitions and small-arms factories and rather sporadically in shipyards. While women were actively involved in provisioning and food supplies issues, their contribution to the strike waves of 1917 and 1918 was on the whole marginal. This essay aims to discuss the relationship between economic living conditions and political mobilization during the Great War.
Le pagine della SIS
a cura di Susanna Mantioni