My paper analyses the connection between work and citizenship in the aftermath of World War II in Italy. I look at the broad picture of women’s history “long times”, that are characterized by the gap between social rights that derive from work and the acquisition of civil and political rights, leading to full citizenship.

I focus on the implementation of constitutional principles in response to the action of the main women’s associations – the Italian Women’s Union (UDI) and the Italian Women’s Centre (CIF) – and other professional associations. As we know, to adapt the legislation to constitutional requirements was a long and difficult process.

Specific cases will be highlighted regarding some kind of labour that are the subject of workshop interventions such as those of the tobacco workers. In 1948 the State Council stated that sex cannot and must not constitute an exception to the principle of equality of all citizens before the law. It confirmed, however, “that there may well be reasons, always connected to sex, which must lead, in homage to other criteria, to the exclusion of some or others from certain offices”. In short, a mandatory equality of the sexes cannot be affirmed because that would be detrimental not only to individuals and to the administration but also “to other principles of a social and moral order from which the legislator could not ignore”. This is just one example, among the many that could be given, of how some institutions were reluctant to implement the Constitution, and the gap between these institutions and social customs.


Teresa Bertilotti is a historian, she received her PhD at the European University Institute (Florence). She has worked extensively on women’s and gender history, focusing on women’s education in nineteenth-century Italy in relation to nation building with particular attention to the administrative unification at the local level, to the process of nationalization through primary education, to the link between female education and access to work.

As a member of the board of the Società italiana delle storiche (Female Historians Association) and of the board of Genesis. Rivista della Società italiana delle storiche, she organized a summer school and some seminars on Italian feminism in the 1970s. Besides having published numerous articles on this topic, she edited some books and journal issues. Currently, with Simona Bonsignori, she is running a book series for the Italian publisher ManifestoLibri: In breve. Parola di donna.

She published a book on the letters sent by Italians to the Presidents of the Republic (1946–1971), highlighting the role of women who use this instrument to solve their family problems and the role of the first ladies.

She has just ended research on visual cultures in Italy, namely cinema, theatre, iconographic documents such as posters, postcards, etc., from 1860 to 1920, focusing on the role entertainment played in disseminating the nation’s history, and on the ways in which it represented the war. In this field, she has published several articles and a forthcoming book.

In terms of public history she has participated in the making of several documentaries.

She collaborates on the EIRENE project.