Catholic Women's Movements in Liberal and Fascist Italy

TitleCatholic Women's Movements in Liberal and Fascist Italy
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsDawes, Helena
Number of Pages283
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
CityHoundmills, UK

In the early 1900s the Catholic Church appealed, for the first time in its history, directly to women to reassert its religious, political and social relevance in Italian society in a battle against liberalism, socialism and modern society. This gave rise to a Christian feminist movement which was soon suppressed because it went beyond its intended welfare brief in order to embrace women's rights issues. The succeeding conservative Catholic women's movements were founded to exercise control over women and mobilize them against secular feminism. This book examines how these became highly successful because of their symbiotic relationship with the clergy and, later, accommodation with fascism, and how they appealed to large numbers of women through their ability to address their needs for fellowship, solidarity and public roles in welfare and social organization. The author shows that paradoxically, while finding fulfilment in entrenching patriarchal values of the Church in Italian society, the conservative women's movements cast away any true leadership on matters which could have improved the condition of women.

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