In this chapter1 I try to analyse the role foreign women played in the Italian Risorgimento focus- ing on the English case. During the 1850s the “myth of the Italian Risorgimento” was fervently embraced by British public opinion: there was capillary diffusion of the Italian national-patriotic cause in lectures, meetings, leaflets, pamphlets and articles. I focus firstly on the contribution of English middle-class women to building up patriotic culture across boundaries, and secondly on the relation, if any, between such action and the definition of their gender identity. Female in- volvement in Italian propaganda was part of a more extensive radical attitude and operated mostly in extra-parliamentary contexts. It was generally a humanitarian ideal that gave them a model for political activism; their involvement was justified in part by their women’s mission and sensibility. But their action was important for Italian propaganda in England and helped women develop female consciousness, elaborate their own identity and not accept the conventional boundaries of female social action. The concept of separate spheres and the notions of public and private were seen to be negotiable and fluid.

Englishwomen supporting the Italian unification: patriotic culture across the boundaries’

BACCHIN E
2009

Abstract

In this chapter1 I try to analyse the role foreign women played in the Italian Risorgimento focus- ing on the English case. During the 1850s the “myth of the Italian Risorgimento” was fervently embraced by British public opinion: there was capillary diffusion of the Italian national-patriotic cause in lectures, meetings, leaflets, pamphlets and articles. I focus firstly on the contribution of English middle-class women to building up patriotic culture across boundaries, and secondly on the relation, if any, between such action and the definition of their gender identity. Female in- volvement in Italian propaganda was part of a more extensive radical attitude and operated mostly in extra-parliamentary contexts. It was generally a humanitarian ideal that gave them a model for political activism; their involvement was justified in part by their women’s mission and sensibility. But their action was important for Italian propaganda in England and helped women develop female consciousness, elaborate their own identity and not accept the conventional boundaries of female social action. The concept of separate spheres and the notions of public and private were seen to be negotiable and fluid.
Paths to Gender, Rethinking gender in European historical research
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