Today’s guest post is written by Jennifer Anton, the historical fiction author of Under the Light of the Italian Moon. I’d like to welcome Jennifer to the blog today and wish her much success on her blog tour. For additional stops on this tour, please scroll to the bottom and see information.
Jennifer Anton on How Mussolini’s Fascism Impacted Women
Since 2006, when I started researching my grandmother’s life in Italy, I’ve come to learn a lot about life for girls and women under il Duce. Life was not easy living under a dictator, yet we rarely hear about history from a women’s point of view. Instead, we hear about great battles, war hero soldiers, millions dying while men vie for power and other men race with guns and bombs to stop them. While the women suffer, outside of the decision making of heads of state, watching their children starve and attempting to hold families together. Such was the case for the women of Italy and the focus of my debut novel, Under the Light of the Italian Moon.
When I was born, an article in a local paper featured my birth and the advancements in 1977 technology vs. my great-great grandmother’s experience in rural northern Italy. Adelasia Dalla Santa Argenta was a professionally trained midwife, known as La Capitana. She was a bold woman willing to risk a bullet during WWI to aid in the birth of a child. A story lingers in the town of Fonzaso about a doctor coming to get her in the middle of the night. He asked her if she had her gun. She replied, “I don’t need a gun. I have my cross.” She knew she couldn’t trust men, but she could trust her faith.
Poster of il Duce’s local fascists in the town of Fonzaso, Italy
As a practicing midwife in the interwar years, the policies of il Duce would have directly impacted her trade. ONMI (L’Opera nazionale maternità e infanzia) which launched in 1925, would have been seen as a positive government investment in the health of women and children. A midwife would have welcomed it. But she wouldn’t have wanted the control that came along with the benefits. Mussolini was famous for his 1927 Ascension Day speech, where he made it clear that an Italian woman’s job was to provide babies for Italy. Population increases would mean an expansion of his empire and military. A woman’s body became a vessel for the state.
Photo of Fonzaso (rights given by Giovanni Battista)
Nina Argenta and Adelasia Dalla Santa Argenta
Women were discouraged from working outside their homes and families. Abortion was banned. Contraceptive education was made illegal; even explaining natural birth control methods was against the law. But il Duce’s Battle for Births never saw its intended outcome. Mussolini couldn’t control everything inside the homes, in the bedrooms of the women he called on to provide the babies. Midwives had a level of control and influence even he could not penetrate.
Mussolini convinced the masses with a crowd-drawing bravado. He used violence via his black shirts, who visited naysayers with forced castor oil cocktails until they cramped into submission. He discredited the press in order to rise to control. “Il Duce ha sempre ragione.” Il Duce is always right. Women watched husbands leave for war, held the home front as towns were bombed and Nazi’s occupied with violent atrocities.
All of my female ancestors dealt first hand with Mussolini’s masochistic reign. They survived two World Wars and with a strength not of guns or brute force, but of resilience and a fierce will to survive with their families. These women are unsung heroes, and they should not be forgotten.
Book Title: Under the Light of the Italian Moon
Author: Jennifer Anton
Publication Date: 8th March 2021
Publisher: Amsterdam Publishers
Page Length: 394 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Biographical Fiction
A promise keeps them apart until WW2 threatens to destroy their love forever
Fonzaso Italy, between two wars
Nina Argenta doesn’t want the traditional life of a rural Italian woman. The daughter of a strong-willed midwife, she is determined to define her own destiny. But when her brother emigrates to America, she promises her mother to never leave.
When childhood friend Pietro Pante briefly returns to their mountain town, passion between them ignites while Mussolini forces political tensions to rise. Just as their romance deepens, Pietro must leave again for work in the coal mines of America. Nina is torn between joining him and her commitment to Italy and her mother.
As Mussolini’s fascists throw the country into chaos and Hitler’s Nazis terrorise their town, each day becomes a struggle to survive greater atrocities. A future with Pietro seems impossible when they lose contact and Nina’s dreams of a life together are threatened by Nazi occupation and an enemy she must face alone…
A gripping historical fiction novel, based on a true story and heartbreaking real events.
Spanning over two decades, Under the Light of the Italian Moon is an epic, emotional and triumphant tale of one woman’s incredible resilience during the rise of fascism and Italy’s collapse into WWII.
Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/3n1nDqC
Bookshop.org (U.S. only): https://bit.ly/3ofS39T
I am Books Boston: https://bit.ly/2Z0mWUO
Jennifer Anton is an American/Italian dual citizen born in Joliet, Illinois and now lives between London and Lake Como, Italy. A proud advocate for women’s rights and equality, she hopes to rescue women’s stories from history, starting with her Italian family.
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Thank you for stopping by today, Jennifer, and I wish you well on your blog tour!!
D. K. Marley
The Hist Fic Chickie