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The city representatives of Trieste awaiting the warship Audace, a symbol of Italian liberation, November 3 1918. Photo: G. Padovan. © Fototeca dei Civici musei di Storia ed Arte [Photo library of the Civic History and Art Museums], inv. n. CMSA F2161.

Research Fields

Close-ups of four cases

PoliticsPolitical violenceWorkFamily
  • democratisation and gender equality
  • women movements
  • women’s political representation

Women gained universal suffrage after both World Wars in numerous states. However, the historiography is still not in accord whether the world conflicts actually enabled or accelerated its introduction. The relations between the process of democratization, peacebuilding, and introducing political and civil rights of women demonstrate wide-ranging complexity. It depends upon the specific historical and geopolitical conditions, if post-war periods favour also transformations towards democratisation and if the specific program of democratisation includes the concept of gender equality. Important factors of ensuring women’s political integration in post-war transitions are (re)definitions of women’s citizenship, which in post-war periods often relate to the validation of women’s contribution to the war effort. Women’s political and civic rights are naturally also the result of women’s own activism in post-war periods. According to studies, women indeed are often influential in the process of post-war reconstruction and peacebuilding, but usually only within NGO activities, while they are seldom included in “formal peace negotiation”.

  • How integrative was the concept of citizenship when framed in newly formed states?
  • How and to what extent did the newly established state institutions and legal documents in Italy, Austria, and Yugoslavia (later on Slovenia and Croatia) address women’s issues and promote gender equality in post-war period?
  • What represented women’s engagement in national conflicts and post-war reconstructions?
  • Did women promoted the agenda of gender equality and the transnational feminist cooperation?
  • How the political representation of women varied in the transitional periods across national contexts of the researched region (Italy, Austria, and Yugoslavia (later on Slovenia and Croatia)?
  • women deportees
  • women in psychiatric institutions
  • women refugees

Political violence occupies an exceptionally important role in the transition processes. As a result of established gender roles, norms and different power relations, it is far from a gender-neutral category. The definition of the term “political violence” often excludes issues, which specifically concerned women, and neglects and deems women’s traumas irrelevant, unlike those of men-soldiers. Sex-based violence is a specific form of political violence inflicted upon women. However, women are not only passive victims of political violence, sometimes potentially violent situations provide emancipatory effects which break with the rigidly defined traditional frameworks (such as within deportation, refugeeism). Women also act as perpetrators of political violence or their accomplices.

  • How did political violence affect women’s identities?
  • Did standard definitions of “political violence” exclude or include issues, which specifically concerned women?
  • What women were experiencing in confinement, internment and prisons? How the authorities, the public and the private sphere responded to them.
  • What happened with the preservation of memory in the private sphere?
  • How did the experiences of displacement, violence, state borders redefinition, loss of citizenship and establishment of exclusionary political practices influence war and post-war related mental disorders?
  • housemaids
  • women intellectuals
  • textile and tobacco workers

After World War I, many women were excluded from the labour market, however, some also managed to implement the opportunities and the competence gained during the war. After World War II, the trends were similar in the West, and different in socialists states, which encouraged the employment of women and established a social system for working mothers. Also the number of female workers in Yugoslavia – unlike in Italy and Austria – increased significantly, in parallel with the industrialization. However, during transition from socialism to capitalism in the 1990s, working women, especially the less educated ones, faced new legal constraints and demands of the market. This stimulated women’s new survival strategies, such as growing employment in the grey economy (particularly housemaids, noteworthy also as “cross-boundary mediators”).

  • How changes in the post-war labour market affected women’s socio-economic and political emancipation?
  • What were the strategies of women to adapt to the post-war transitions?
  • What was women’s share in the economy and grey economy?
  • What were the differences in possibilities for women of various class affiliations and educational, intellectual, political, and national background?
  • How transitional periods influenced housemaids’ survival strategies, their standard of living, and their own conceptualisations of political borders and economic systems?
  • What roles did women intellectuals in the North-Eastern Adriatic region play in creating important political ideas in the transition periods? Did they as women have more or less possibilities to express them publicly?
  • To which degree were the loss of titles and social exclusion of educated women a consequence of post-war (political) conditions?
  • Did women intellectuals/scientists of different national origins cooperated during nationally-based conflicting atmosphere in post-war transitions?
  • How the image of the textile and tobacco female worker changed in the transition periods and which attributes were ascribed to them?
  • What were general statistical trends of their employability like in the pre-war, war, and post-war periods?
  • motherhood
  • war widows
  • victims of political violence

During World War I and II, many women enjoyed greater autonomy within the family and had more opportunities to enter public life. However, in both post-war periods, this trend was reversed due to tendencies for “cultural demobilisation”, i.e. abandonment of war-friendly mentalities. Even in the socialist states, where the authorities were declaratively committed to gender equality, the traditional gender division in some aspects consolidated after the war. Surprisingly, similar turns towards retraditionalization can be traced in Slovenia and in Croatia in the 1990s. These trends went hand in hand with the growing influence of religious institution. Nevertheless, unconventional forms of family structures and identities (e.g. widowhood, an increase in divorces), which deviate from the traditional model of the family with clearly defined gender roles, spread due to the prolonged turmoil of the war and post-war period. Women had to adapt to the new situation with survival strategies, which at times led to inclusion and empowerment.

  • What are the causes and effects of changes in the roles within families in the transition periods?
  • How these changes influenced women’s identities, their opportunities, and needs to enter public life?
  • How the traditional role of the mother was placed in the Slovenian, Croatian, Italian, and Austrian nationalistic discourses that expanded in post-war periods?
  • Post-war experiences of widows of the war-defeated fighters vs. the widows of war-winners.
  • Who (and why) were the victims of gender-based violence?
  • What were the rates and forms of femicide and other indicators of violence?