Workers’ activism, gender issues and political rights in times of transition: the case of the Fiume/Rijeka Tobacco Factory after the Great War
Founded in 1851, the Tobacco Factory (Manifattura tabacchi) in Fiume/Rijeka swiftly became one of the leading factories in the city, and employed up to 2,000 workers, predominantly women, on the eve of the Great War. As happened in other contexts, paid work triggered both political emancipation through trade union activism and economic independence, and posed a challenge to traditional gender roles, as stressed in the lyrics of canzonette fiumane.
Soon after it came to power, in the aftermath of the war, the Italian National Council took control of the Manifattura tabacchi which was working at a reduced industrial capacity. The harsh national and political tensions, combined with the scarcity of resources, had a significant impact not just on Fiume, but also on the factory itself with claims, struggles, dismissals, while the diverse political actors active in the city tried to set a foot in its premises and gain consensus. Women suffrage, briefly in effect after the Great War, led to the election of the tobacco worker Antonia Verson in the City Council and turned the factory into a coveted vote-bank. Later, being directly subsidized by the Italian government even before the annexation of the city to Italy in 1924, the Manifattura tabacchi became one of the few factories which partially recovered its production capacity. This endowed the workers with bargaining power which expressed itself in a set of demands, attempts of negotiation with the authorities and strikes which lasted into early Fascism.
This paper will focus on a specific segment – the transitional period following the Great War – of the century-long history of the Manifattura tabacchi to investigate the mechanisms of national and political inclusion and exclusion within the factory but also the wide range of political options at stake among the workers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Francesca Rolandi obtained her PhD in Slavic Studies at the University of Turin in 2012, working on a project on cultural transfers between Italy and Yugoslavia in the 1950s and 1960s. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Italian Institute for Historical Studies in Naples and the University of Rijeka she has investigated the refugee regime in the Upper Adriatic area during the Cold War. Her research interests range from social and cultural history of the post-Yugoslav and Upper Adriatic area to the history of migration and refugees in the 20th century. In the scope of the EIRENE project she deals with the impact of the long transition following World War I on women’s issues in Fiume/Rijeka and Sušak.
She collaborates on the EIRENE project.