During the early twentieth century in Italy up to the Fascist regime, the role of women changed dramatically. Initially, this was the result of a shift from an agricultural to industrial society. When the men of the family left for war during the Great War, the role of the woman changed from a mere tool of procreation into managing the family economy – both agriculturally and industrially. Before the Italian Fascist Party, women had an increased participation in industry jobs and in democracy. external image moz-screenshot.jpgexternal image moz-screenshot-1.jpg

Benito Mussolini, leader of Italian Fascist Party at podium
Benito Mussolini, leader of Italian Fascist Party at podium
However, the misogynist views of Mussolini and the Fascist party undermined women’s roles once more and Italian women faced poor treatment in almost all areas of daily life outside the home including politics, economics, and society. This legislation reinforced the patriarchal authority, barred women from paid wage labor, and took away their choice in decisions about reproduction. Through the banning of abortion, family allocations, maternity, birth and marriage insurances and formation of special institutions for infant and family health and welfare, the state encouraged women to procreate and have big families. Furthermore, through propaganda and the establishment of Mother’s day, the Fascist party made childbearing an honorable service to the state. Despite the numerous benefits received during childbirth, the welfare of the infant superseded that of the mother due to the interests of the Italian nation. Through propaganda, Italian mothers of all classes were made to feel incompetent, apprehensive, and dependent - that they needed male intervention in order to make correct decisions about motherhood. Furthermore, laws such as placing a limit on feminine employees and decreasing women wages drove the women out of the workforce. To increase the dependence of the women in the government, women were urged to wisely use the services offered by the limited social welfare system in order to ensure a healthy, large family. Furthermore, a national agency called the ONMI was established to check on the welfare of the mother and the child and it helped mothers during the prenatal and postnatal care and taught the mothers proper infant hygiene, nutrition and medical treatment. (2)

Even though many women cooperated with the party, few women resisted the regime because of the government’s intrusion in their private lives. To quell this resistance, the regime gave women limited freedom by setting up social engagements amongst women. Despite the freedom to socially engage and discuss politics, women are too busy in their family duties to actually use their freedom but, even when the women had time to protest against the government, they could only complain about their motherhood. Some even protested by not giving birth and this is evident as birth rates plummeted. However, the women also contested the effectiveness of the new fascist policies in fully supporting the familial financial burdens. Even though the government granted services and protective legislation to mothers, the maternity insurance is not even sufficient to cover the medical and hospital costs during the prenatal to postnatal stages and they were left impoverished. Furthermore, no help is given to the mothers until they are fully recognized as impoverished and even if the government helps them, these unemployed and disabled mothers must pay back the government in installments. Even though many babies are being born, the mothers are unable to support the health of their babies. Thus, women are robbed of their private lives and of their ability to support their family financially.

In conclusion, the shift from an agricultural to an industrial society in Italy during the Great War increased the woman’s role in society because women took up jobs and participated more in democracy. However, the Italian Fascist Party tried to turn these women to tools of procreation through benefits, social welfare, protective legislation and propaganda promoting the importance and honor of motherhood. Even though many women complied with the party, a handful of women protested against the government intrusion in their lives and the faults of their social welfare

Magazine for Females, Depicting An Ideal Family According to Hitler's views
Magazine for Females, Depicting An Ideal Family According to Hitler's views

Like Mussolini, Hitler attempted to reduce a woman’s role to a tool of procreation. He even outlined that the role of women to the three K’s “Kinder, Küche, Kirche” (children, kitchen, church) and he saw no reason why women should work. In the following quote from Hitler’s speech in 1935:
"In the Germanic nations there has never been anything else than equality of rights for women. Both sexes have their rights, their tasks, and these tasks were in the case of each equal in dignity and value, and therefore man and woman were on an equality."
Hitler in 1935
Hitler argues that man and woman have equal rights and tasks because by fulfilling the tasks assigned to them, they achieved equal amounts of dignity and value. In addition, Hitler thinks that women are unable to “think logically or reason objectively for they are always ruled by emotion.” (1) Furthermore, Hitler said that “the woman has her own battlefield. With every child that she brings into the world, she fights her battle for the nation.” and in this passage, Hitler believes that all women is limited to her own battles with the children and the family. During 1933, Hitler passed a Law for the Encouragement of Marriage which gave all newlyweds a loan equivalent to nine months of income. However, here is the catch: a birth of one child forfeits 25% of the loan, two children erases 50% of the loan and four children means that the loan is fully paid. The underlying concept is simple because like Mussolini, Hitler wanted to increase the population of his nation. If the German population increases, Germany would have more male soldiers and more female mothers and as a result, lebensraum can be achieved successfully through the intimidation of numbers of soldiers.
To achieve his ideals, Hitler and the Nazi party indoctrinated girls in their early years that girls should live for their husband and their children only. Furthermore, Hitler drove women from jobs and universities so that these women can concentrate on their families. In the year before the Nazis came to power there were 18,315 women students in Germany's universities. By 1939 this number had fallen to 5,447. In Weimar Germany there had been 100,000 female teachers, 3000 female doctors and 13,000 female musicians. After Hitler rose to power, many female lawyers and
Motherhood Cross
Motherhood Cross
teachers were fired and by 1939, few women were working full-time. Even though women were allowed to work “patriotically” in 1937, the arrangement was only implemented because Germany needed skilled workers for the “Nazi Economic Miracle”.(2) The government not only infringed in women’s employment and education but also in their private, household lives. Nazis banned abortion and birth control to increase the chances of impregnation. Women were not allowed make-up, perms and trousers and, were encouraged to slim down. Furthermore, even though the Nazis discouraged women from smoking, it was not because smoking caused pregnancy problems—but because smoking is viewed as non-German. They even encouraged childless couples to divorce so that they can find someone else (1). To promote more births, Hitler even awarded the Motherhood Cross to the woman who gave birth to the largest number of children in all of Germany. Oddly, an unmarried woman with a child is not frowned upon by society and there were even buildings that had a white flag and red dot in the middle, where unmarried women can get pregnant with a “racially pure” man. (4)
(4) http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/GERwomen.htm