Irma Bandiera, Maria Goretti: Gender role models for communist girls in Italy (1945-1956)
In 1947, the leader of the Italian communist youth Enrico Berlinguer gave a speech in Rome, where he pointed at two different figures as role models for Communist girls: Irma Bandiera and Maria Goretti. The former was a female partisan who had been tortured and killed by fascists during the war. Maria Goretti, on the other hand, was a 12-year-old peasant girl who had been murdered in 1902 because she had resisted an attempted rape. Before dying, Maria, a girl of deep Catholic belief, had forgiven her killer. In the following decades, the fascist regime and the Catholic Church fostered the popular cult of Maria as an embodiment of female ‘virtues’ such as purity and submissiveness, and of the value of chastity. Taking the cue from this episode, this article analyses the educational policies for girls carried out within the Italian young communist league in the late 1940s-early 1950s. Particular attention is paid to the influence of Catholicism over communist policies, to the main activities promoted for young female militants, and to the way in which moral and sexual issues were addressed within the Italian young communist league.