02 Feb 2010

The many women who fought so that Italy could become the country that it is today.

The women who made Italy

The political and social movement that led to the unification of Italy in 1861 is known as “Risorgimento“, the Resurgence. Many will have heard the names of the most famous players of the Risorgimento: all Italian cities have devoted streets and squares to their memory. Garibaldi, Mazzini, Cavour, Vittorio Emanuele II, Bixio and many more.

Many more men.

On February 9, in Livorno, history will be rectified with the presentation of a dvd dedicated to “Il Risorgimento delle Donne“, “Women’s Resurgence”, created by Annalisa Costagli and Giacomo Verde, and sponsored by the Region (Regione Toscana).

Even if their names rarely made it into history books, many women fought so that Italy could become a unified country. Besides heroic Anita Garibaldi and the controversial Countess di Castiglione, Virginia Oldoini, many other women were involved in the Risorgimento. They were not necessarily noble women, but also women of the lower- and middle-classes. They were active members of the secret societies such as Carboneria, and supported Mazzini‘s ideas and in liberalism.

Some women contributed with simple but meaningful actions. Mrs. Sgarallino in Livorno used to secretly sew tricolour Italian flags, despite the ban imposed by the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Many cured the wounded left on the field after the battles, and it was maybe some of these women helping out after the Battle of Solferino who inspired Henry Dunant to start what today is the Red Cross. Others, like Rose Montmasson, Crispi’s wife, literally fought battles. Disguised in men clothes, she was the only woman to participate in the “Spedizione dei Mille“, (“the Thousand” or Redshirts),  the expedition led by Garibaldi. Other women were intellectuals who wrote in journals and debated in literary salons, like Angelica Palli Bartolommei in Livorno or Cristina Trivulzio Belgiojoso, publisher and journalist whose contribution to the Cinque Giornate di Milano (Five Days of Milan) was inestimable.

Here is a link to the video about the women who participated in the Risorgimento.


  1. Education site

    Great article, lots of intersting things to digest. Very informative

  2. Roberta Kedzierski mentions Milan Heroines in Time Out Milan. Follow Roberta on Twitter!


  1. Most Tweeted Articles by National Geographic Experts says:

    […] Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996, it is not far from the … 2 Likes The women who made Italy | At Home in Tuscany The many women who fought so that Italy could become the country that it is today. 2 […]

Leave a Comment