STORIES OF WOMEN – Italian women during the First World War

Laboratorio di Storia

Stories of women is an educational project by Laboratorio di Storia (History Lab) of ISIS Bonaldo Stringher (High school in Udine, Italy). The exhibition is realized by teachers and students. Theacers selected the topics and the photos, students read some women’s diaries and summarized them.

Another group of students translated the texts for the catalogue. This year a team will realize a short video about Stories of women. The exhibition includes photos from North East of Italy, Austria and Slovenjia.

Female carriers on fatigue duties, towards Forcella Cibiana Jenuary 3th, 1917.
(Fondazione Angelini, Archivio Alpago Novello, Belluno)

NEAR THE FRONT

 The logistics requirements of armies made up of millions of men forced the commanders to use the women living close to the first rear for tasks directly linked with the war. Many got involved in either the arrangement or the construction of access routes to the battle line, in the realization of second-line trenches or in transporting equipment. In the most crowded areas real laundries, tailor’s shops and recycling venues for the uniforms were arranged.

‘SANTE SCUGNE’, FOR NECESSITY

In the mountain areas the opposing armies were forced to set women in units of “carriers”, who used to climb from the bottom of the valley up to the top, crossing large differences of height, carrying heavier and heavier loads to provide the combatants with all the things they needed.

In Italy these women’s contribution is associated to that of the Carnian carriers. Their presence is reported in the Veneto region, in the Valleys of the river Natisone and, in the opposing front, in Trentino. The lack of men and the economic needs urged many women to offer their workforce.

Girls in charge of carrying goods during the war “Valle di Fiemme”. (Istitut Cultural Ladin
– Istituto Ladino di Fassa)

AIDING THE WOUNDED: THE RED CROSS

High society (though not exclusively) women were mostly employed in the Red Cross. Their task was to take care of the injured throughout the hospitalization, but very soon they were employed right next the battle line as a support for the doctors that operated soldiers.

NOBLESSE OBLIGE

From Queen Elena down to the lower nobility grades, with a considerable number of upper middle-class female members, numerous noblewomen were differently engaged in the Italian war efforts. many noblewomen promoted the development of associatons that collected wool, produced socks, gloves and caps for the soldiers.

 WOMEN AT WORK: COUNTRY WOMEN AND FACTORY WORKERS

Most women had to deal with the household management which meant an increase of the work in the fields. The technical and administrative skills women had acquired in their lifetime were put to the test, also because the agricultural production was essential for the prosecution of the war.

Part of the women, both those living in cities or in industrialized areas and those who had moved to the cities from the countryside, occupied part of the workplaces left free by men called.

 THE HOUSE

In wartime the house becomes the place that suffers the first visible damages of a threatening and terrible enemy. The badly damaged houses are the symbol of the changing life conditions.

 MEETING PLACES

The traditional places for socialization were preserved: the neighborhood, district and village fountains, daily or weekly markets, religious celebrations.

They were places and moments of mutual exchange and support.

 THE USE OF THE WOMAN OR THE WOMAN USED: THE PROPAGANDA

It is the first massive use of the propaganda tool and just around women a series of cliché are built that will later be strengthened: the caring mother, the wife awaiting the return of the soldier, the woman as a prey of the war, violated and easy prostitute as well, the holy to whom devoting before dying.

Download Italian language versions of these stories using the links below:

http://files.spaggiari.eu/UDIP0001/progetti/StorieDiDonne/catalogo.pdf

http://files.spaggiari.eu/UDIP0001/progetti/StorieDiDonne/storie%20di%20donne.pdf

http://files.spaggiari.eu/UDIP0001/progetti/StorieDiDonne/approfondimenti%20delle%20storie%20di%20donne.pdf

 

With special thanks

With thanks to Giancarlo Martina for sharing this story.