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Women and Gender in Post-Unification Italy

Between Private and Public Spheres


Edited By Katharine Mitchell and Helena Sanson

In nineteenth-century Italy, a woman’s place was considered to be in the domestic sphere, devoted to family life. But during the Risorgimento and the years following Unification, economic, political and social changes enabled women progressively to engage in pursuits that had previously been the exclusive domain of men. This book traces some of the steps of this shift in cultural perception. Covering the period from the Unification of Italy in 1861 to the First World War, the volume brings together new perspectives on women, culture and gender in ten original interdisciplinary chapters that explore a variety of subjects, including motherhood and spinsterhood, women’s relationship with the Italian language, emigration and brigantaggio, patriotism and travel writing, acting and theatre management, film-making, and political ideas and female solidarity.


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Part 3 Writing and Performing in the Spotlight


Sharon Wood Murder in the Harem: Cristina di Belgiojoso Reading the Risorgimento: The Controversial Figure of Belgiojoso One hundred and fifty years of Italian Unification have prompted renewed ref lection on women’s participation in the Risorgimento, their more or less visible role in the struggles leading up to the creation of the new nation state, and the extent to which they deployed private contacts, learning and resources in the interests of public and nationalist politics. Of these women, probably none has received more attention than Cristina Trivulzio di Belgiojoso. Born in 1808 into one of the wealthiest Lombard families, married to and then separated from a prince, passionate advocate of Italian independence, scholar, salonnière, historian, hospital manager, traveller, translator, writer of fiction, editor of journals and single mother, Belgiojoso’s life was widely controversial, giving rise to numerous biographies from the hagiographical to the highly critical.1 Her work continues to spark polemic and partisanship to this day. Considered a social and intellectual groundbreaker by some, others regard her views on the ‘questione fem- minile’ as retrograde and imbued with class politics, her attitude to the Orient as illustrative of the Westernizing gaze articulated by Edward Said 1 Biographies include R. Barbiera, La principessa di Belgiojoso, i suoi amici, i suoi nemici, il suo tempo (Milan: Treves, 1902); H. Remsen Whitehouse, A Revolutionary Princess: Cristina di Belgiojoso, her Life and Times (New York: Dutton, 1926); A. Malvezzi, Cristina di Belgiojoso (Milan: Treves, 1936); B. Archer Brombert, Cristina: Portraits of a Princess...

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