The 21 women who made the Constitution: why, 75 years later, their battles are still current

75 years have passed since the entry into force of the Italian Constitution, but the battles of the women who were part of the Constituent Assembly are still extraordinarily current. This is why journalists Angela Iantosca and Romano Cappelletto have written a book to tell young people (and others) the story of these twenty-one women. In «Twentyone. The women who made the Constitution» (Edizioni Paoline), in bookstores from tomorrow, the Constituents speak in the first person, reconstructing their lives and their goals.

Why dust off the story of these women today?
«Because many of the words they spoke after their election, the June 2, 1946 – and even earlier during the Resistance -, are suitable for our times. Because history should not be forgotten, both in order not to make the same mistakes of the past and because what has been represents the foundations of the present and the future. Because the Constituent Assembly are women who have had the determination to make history, with their presence, with their ability not to back down, with that spirit that has not silenced them, bringing to Parliament the same strength they had shown as partisans, as relay racers, as entertainers of cultural circles, as prisoners, when freedom was an abstract concept, when women did not have the right to vote, when their role could only be that of “angels of the hearth”. And also because it is important to remember that the rights we have acquired are the result of conflicts, struggles, suffering, of people who have not given up”.

How did you come up with this project?
«The idea was born on 8 June 2021. I (Angela Iantosca, ed) had been invited to moderate an event organized in Latina, my hometown, right on the Constituents, and which was also attended by Livia Turco, president of the Nilde Iotti Foundation. As I asked questions, I listened to her answers, I began to perceive that emotion that I feel every time an idea arises in me that it is necessary – if not urgent – to transform into an in-depth analysis, into a book, into an article. I decided that I didn’t have to be alone on this journey through history: I had to share this project with a man. This is why I involved Romano Cappelletto, a lover of the Constitution and history, right from the start. Often when it comes to women’s issues it is women who deal with it, but I believe that the first step towards overcoming certain boundaries is precisely to involve those who are a fundamental part of the emancipation process in the debate».

Angela Iantosca and Romano Cappelletto

The story that fascinated you the most?
«I certainly loved a lot Nilde Iotti. But one of the women who fascinated me the most was Teresa Mattei, “the one with the mimosa”. She is usually remembered for having associated the mimosa flower with women’s day, she has carried on fundamental battles in her life, never giving up. She was the youngest woman elected to the Constituent Assembly, she was a member of the Committee of Eighteen, she worked for equality between men and women, for women’s access to the judiciary and for that article 3 which is pivotal and guarantor of the dignity and equality of all citizens. But she also contributed to the drafting of article 51 concerning the access of women to all jobs and then of article 98. She also showed her courage in her private life: when she became pregnant by a married man, faced with the request of the party to which she belonged to have an abortion, she did not accept: she could never have allowed anyone to suggest what to do with her body and her life. So he preferred to face the extreme consequences of her choices, she who was called the cursed anarchist, arriving to be expelled from the party, but continuing to “do politics” dealing with childhood and leaving a message of coherence and hope for posterity ».

What obstacles did these women encounter?
«The greatest obstacles were encountered in Parliament, among colleagues who did not welcome their presence. Just think that Bianca Bianchi, of the PSI, when she was elected on June 2, 1946 she obtained twice the votes of Sandro Pertini, yet she was not named head of the list and her companions made her sign a letter of resignation which they would have used in the Chamber if she had moved too independently. Even the press of the time didn’t treat them as they deserved: Bianca Bianchi herself was told in the newspapers through descriptions that lingered on her clothing and her blonde hair (can’t you find an analogy with what often happens nowadays?). In addition to this, they have encountered obstacles in having some texts of the laws of the Constitution corrected, fighting strenuously to break down prejudices and machismo and to insert keywords that have protected all Italian women from then until today”.

The 21 women who made the Constitution: why, 75 years later, their battles are still current