“… and above all the battle [is] to make women understand, even through the most banal and most simple initiatives, that politics is not intrigue and scheming, but an essential way of life.”
–Ada Gobbetti, Diario partigiano, 1949
On a warm June day in 1946 twenty-one women gather in Rome for a group photo, each holding a rose in her hand. A curious passion animates their faces, creating the momentary appearance of a family resemblance. Their suits, though respectably clean and modest, are worn and cut in styles from before the war. All are thin and their old suits look sizes too big for them; in 1946 recovery and reconstruction haven’t advanced enough to satisfy the demand for even the most basic foodstuffs.
Physically, there is nothing else to tell us why these women belong together as a group–they cannot be of the same class, given the differences in dress and grooming. They are deeply divided by age, with several white-haired women seated in front of the tableau and several standing behind who look to be in their twenties. They are the first women ever elected to public office in Italy by the first women ever to vote in Italy. Their unifying passion is politics, and their politics are motivated by a common experience of over two decades of Fascism, war, and resistance. They will make up only 21 out of 586 members of the Constituent Assembly, the body charged with writing a new republican constitution, but these women are among the most famous figures of their parties and of the Resistance, and they will make their voices count.