CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

1In France as well as in Italy, the arrival of liberal democracy was accompanied by a double marginalization of Catholic women from the game of politics: first, by virtue of being women, they were excluded from the electorate in the French Third Republic and the Kingdom of Italy until after the Second World War; [1] second, by virtue of being Catholic, they were confined by the Church into their role as keepers of the faith and the family, and kept apart from political activities. [2] Consequently, for similar reasons that stemmed from different traditions, Italian and French women were neither voters nor candidates at the beginning of the twentieth century. [3]

2Through a study of two women’s associations founded during the first decade of the twentieth century, the Ligue patriotique des Françaises (Patriotic League of French Women, LPDF) and Unione fra le donne cattoliche d’Italia (the Union of Catholic Women in Italy, UDCI), this article shows the effects of gender and Catholicism on democratization in these two European countries. More precisely, the study of these associations throws light on a paradox that enables us to revisit the history of suffrage and politicization: that of the participation of Catholic women in electoral competitions, despite being both unable to vote and even hostile to the expansion of suffrage to women, if not hostile to the vote altogether. [4]

3The LPDF was created to prepare for the Catholic electoral takeover during the elections of 1902. [5] It was led by aristocrats close to conservative political circles. Soon, it boasted several hundred thousand members, and become the most important women’s association of the century, with more than one and a half million members in 1933. [6]

4Its “little Italian sister”, the UDCI, was created in 1909. After the secular offensive of the feminist Congress of Rome in 1908, the UDCI was announced in Rome during the beatification celebrations of Joan of Arc. This ceremony provided an opportunity for the two Catholic women’s associations to gain the patronage of the saint and to strengthen their links to one another. Also led by aristocrats, the UDCI nevertheless had a smaller membership than the LPDF, claiming only 40,000 members in 1914. Importantly, it seemed to keep its distance from electoral politics.

5While feminist politics have been the subject of numerous studies, [7] the political action of conservative women, who did not demand the same modes of participation in public affairs as men, remains neglected. [8] The centrality of the vote in political science analysis has perhaps contributed to make invisible a whole series of connected activities that can involve women: from propaganda to the distribution of election materials and ballots, not to mention the fight against electoral fraud. The first studies on female voters highlighted the quasi-political dimension of Catholic women’s organizations, yet they did not delve further into the influence of these institutions on electoral competition. [9] In the same vein as those works of historical sociology that studied politicization and the role of the clergy in electoral mobilization, [10] this article is interested in precisely these kinds of indirect forms of participation in electoral competition. Through a comparison of the French and the Italian cases, this article will shed light on the various “matrices of citizenship” offered by Catholicism for women. Why, when French Catholic women had intervened in electoral affairs since 1902, were Italian Catholic women urged to use other methods for bringing the city of man in conformity with the city of God?

Timeline of the two associations

tableau im1
Year France Italy 1901 Creation of the law on associations that aimed to establish prefectural control over religious congregations. Founding of the Ligue des femmes francaises League of French Women in Lyon. 1902 Legislative elections, Catholic counter offensive. Creation of l Action librale populaire popular Liberal Action by acques iou on May 17 and the Ligue patriotique lib rale des Fran aises Liberal atriotic League of French Women on May 21 to support the election of Catholic candidates. Electoral failure of Catholic candidates. 1903 Death of ope Leo XIII, election of ope ius, followed by the election of Merry del Val as secretary of state for the Vatican. 1904 Municipal elections in France. The non expedit decree is relaxed. 1905 Law of Separation of Church and State. 1906 Legislative elections in France, another electoral failure for Catholics. Baroness Reille replaces the Baroness de Brigode as resident of the L DF. 1907 LDF Congress of Lourdes; modernist crisis: ope ius asks the League to limit themselves to social and religious affairs. Official abandonment of women’s electoral work and of the name L DF AL. The League of Women breaks with AL. 1908 In Rome, a feminist congress that includes Catholic Italian women votes for a motion against obligatory religious instruction in schools. 1909 Beatification of Ioan of Arc. Celebratory ceremonies in Rome. The birth of the Union of Catholic Women of Italy is announced, and the hope names Christina Giustiniani Bandini as its president. 1910 Death of Baroness Reille. The Vicomtesse de V lard is named president of the LDF. 1911 First complaints made by conference organizers about the direction of the League are lodged with the bishops. 1913 1914 Cardinal Sevin’s inquiry. It advocates the dissolution of the League as a voluntary association (Association loi de 1901, nonprofit associations in France).

Timeline of the two associations

The birth of Catholic Women’s political action in France and in Italy

The Electoral Committee, the first incarnation of the Patriotic League of French Women (LPDF)

6The women’s association was established primarily to collect funds for the 1902 elections and to create a religious bloc to counter the Republican bloc led by Waldeck-Rousseau. The main goal was to oppose secularization as it was conceived by the radical elite. Although the women’s association claimed to be apolitical, it was set up as the female branch of a political party: the liberal and conservative Action libérale populaire (ALP). The first chaplain of the LPDF, the Jesuit Régis Pupey-Girard, wrote about the climate of electoral competition that surrounded the LPDF’s creation and explained the intervention of women in the electoral race. The Parisian committee was created by Jacques Piou, the deputy founder of the ALP in May 1902, and Jules Lemaître, the president of the Ligue de la Patrie française [League of the French Fatherland], which was moribund at the time. [11]


“A group of Parisian Ladies was looking for a way to help the men save the country, and they had the idea of taking a collection to support the election of good candidates. After having received full approval from the Ven. Card. Richard, they were seeking to organize themselves when they learned that a League with this exact goal had just been created in Lyon, and they joined it immediately.” [12]

8The role of Jesuits, just like that of the Mother Superior of the société des Filles de Marie[13] [Society of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary], Mademoiselle Faivre, has been deliberately downplayed. In fact, the Parisian committee of the League of French Women was created at the initiative of the Provincial of the Society of Jesus (Compagnie de Jésus), [14] the Archbishop of Paris, and the Mother Superior, and at the request of the Catholic rallié[15] candidates who were worried about the financing of their campaigns in the 1902 general elections. Following these elections, which were a failure for Catholics, the Parisian committee split off, first taking the name Liberal Patriotic League of French Women, then in July 1902, the Patriotic League of French Women-Popular Liberal Action. The first members of the board were Daughters of the Heart of Mary or those close to the politicians of the ALP.

9The association developed rapidly, leaning on pre-existing networks of Catholic women and children’s associations and aided by a clergy that favored the women’s apostolic mission. [16] It recruited its leaders from the Daughters of the Heart of Mary and the aristocracy. The need to integrate representatives of the industrial and commercial bourgeoisie was clear from the very first meetings. [17] The Baroness Geneviève Reille (1844-1910), a conference organizer [18] for and founder of the LPDF, wife of the deputy-senator René Reille and mother of Amédée and Xavier Reille, both deputies of the ALP, spelled out this necessity very clearly. A circular explicitly mentioned the question of financial and human resources: in order to found a committee, it recommended “drawing a number of rich people to the organization and recruiting numerous members to the LPDF”. [19] Baroness Reille even specified the social composition of an effective local committee: “5 people from the aristocracy, 5 from the bourgeoisie, 5 from trade, and 5 from the working class”. [20] The aristocracy was deliberately overrepresented, as were the presumably more monied business and middle-class milieus.

10Within the association, the members who gave 25 francs in annual dues or who gave at least 500 francs were distinguished from the members who paid one franc a year in dues. By way of comparison, membership dues for the French section of the Second International were 0.25 franc per year in 1906. [21] The leaders of the LPDF intended, from its establishment, to rely on a social and religious elite – aristocrats and the ordained – to create a mass women’s movement in order to spread the influence of the Church among voters. Social work constituted a useful way of attracting women from the working classes and tying their membership to a range of services based on the model of workers’ organizations. [22] The association presented itself as a self-help organization for women, aiming to acquire a vast membership as a result of its services.

11Starting in 1906, tensions within the central leadership appeared between the Daughters of the Heart of Mary who considered that electoral activities overstepped their religious mandate, and those who wanted to continue the electoral work. The Baroness de Brigode was forced to resign from the presidency. She was replaced by Baroness Reille who, while submitting to the pontifical directives of 1907 that forbade women’s electoral involvement, [23] nevertheless continued to finance elections unofficially. The election of Pius X in 1903 led to changes in the position of the hierarchy. The separation of Church and State in 1905 and the electoral failure of 1906 seemed to prove right those Catholics who saw electoral activities as an unreliable strategy for winning France back for God. It was also at this time that the anti-modernist offensive began: it targeted liberals, including the LPDF because of its alliance with Jacques Piou’s ALP. [24] During the Congress of Lourdes in 1907, the secretary of state for Pius X, Cardinal Merry del Val, asked the League members to remain strictly on religious and social terrain and to definitively abandon electoral work. Ties with the ALP were officially broken, and the Patriotic League dropped that part of their name. Nevertheless, occasional financial support continued (albeit in a more discreet manner), especially when ALP candidates were in trouble. [25]

Birth of the UDCI: a response to secular feminism

12The declaration of the Union of Catholic Women in Italy (UDCI) came a few years later. To understand the context in which this organization was created, it is necessary to return to the moment that solidified the division between Catholic women’s organizations and Italian feminist organizations. The first national feminist congress was held in 1908 in Rome, under the aegis of the National Council of Italian Women (CNDI), which brought together different feminist associations. The CNDI received the patronage of socialist mayor Ernesto Nathan. Catholic women from Milan who professed a Christian feminism took part in the congress. [26] Just a few months before, the Chamber of Deputies had discussed the bill on public instruction and primary schools. The feminist congress became a sounding board for debates concerning religious instruction in primary school. Most of the women who attended the congress voted the resolution to make religious instruction optional in public schools; some Catholics participated in the vote while others publicly manifested their disagreement.

13Opposed to the liberal feminism of the CNDI that was defined principally by its attachment to civil equality and the promotion of secularism, some Catholics near the Pope reacted. [27] Princess Cristina Giustiniani Bandini (1869-1959), a Dominican tertiary [28] who was close to Pope Pius X, solicited Roman Catholic women’s circles to create a Catholic women’s union capable of blocking the “feminist masons”. [29]


“An irreligious and anti-religious feminist movement exists, and it imposes on us an obligation not only to keep greater vigilance, but also to work together to try to protect immutable religious principles.” [30]

15Recruitment was primarily aristocratic, notably in the south of the peninsula, seeming to obey an elitist and clientelist logic similar to that observed among conservative male political parties. [31] But unique to this group was its reliance on women’s religious sociability and its close ties to ecclesiastical hierarchy. The Roman central committee drew on Princess Giustiniani Bandini’s connections, and local committees were founded in the same way as the LPDF: a conference was organized by a local female aristocrat, who invited the most zealous parishioners from her circle to come and hear Giustiniani Bandini in her salons or those of the Ordinary (archbishops or bishops). The names of the local president, the vice president, and the secretary, first submitted to the national president for approval, were then proposed to and approved by the audience and the clergy representative who would be the ecclesiastical assistant of the aforesaid committee. [32] The Italian association had an explicitly elitist and religious character: it was deemed necessary to form a women’s elite that would be capable of bringing the secularized masses back to Catholicism through its culture and solid religious training. This explains in part why the association claimed fewer adherents than the LPDF (40,000 for the UDCI, compared to 545,000 for the LPDF in 1914).

16In sum, although these associations shared some common features, as Catholic Action women’s movements, the battle was not fought on the same ground in the two countries: in the French context, the Catholic women’s organization responded to governmental policies, and thus were involved in politics, while in Italy, the UDCI needed to challenge the influence of secular feminism among women, including among Catholic women.

National logics of Catholic women’s mobilization

The rules of the electoral game

17The boundaries of legitimate political activity have been a stumbling block for Catholics since the Revolution.

18The extension of the right to vote in 1848 resulted in a theological reformulation concerning Catholics’ participation in the democratic regime. [33] The ralliement to the Republic was imposed by the top of the Church hierarchy. Nevertheless, electoral activity, as a corollary to democracy and political liberalism, remained tied to partisan divisions. Pope Leo XIII, in his encyclicals, insisted on the role of the head-voter of the family as vital to the restoration of a Christian society which would come to pass as much through good voting as by the Christian education of children. This Catholic representation of democracy portrayed a strict sexual division of political roles: men were in charge of the elaboration of laws and of government, and women were in charge of teaching customs, which would provide stronger and more efficient means of bringing the earthly social order into conformity with Christian principles.

19During the elections of 1904 in Italy, Pope Pius X weakened the non expedit in order to facilitate victory in the face of socialist and ministerial candidates suspected of anticlericalism. This non expedit had been pronounced by Pope Pius IX after the ultimate unitary territorial conquest: the taking of Rome in 1870 in order to make it the capital of Italy. It was pronounced by the religious court of the Apostolic Penitentiary a few years after the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy (1866), in order to keep Catholics away from what was considered as an impious regime. The electoral reform of 1912 forced the Catholic hierarchy once again to redefine its position in regards to suffrage: if all Italians were called to the ballot box, could the Catholics abstain? The Gentiloni pact, named after the leader of the Catholic Voting Union, authorized Catholic candidates to present themselves as such for legislative elections.

20Under the Italian regime’s censitary suffrage system, that also required voters to be educated, [34] women seem not to have been included in the electoral body according to a “family census”, which is reminiscent of the system of male censitary suffrage found in France from 1830 to 1848. This put these female citizens in the same situation as less wealthy and less educated male citizens. [35] It was the rich or educated male head of the family, representing his household, who was the voter. Elections were conceived of on two levels: political/national and administrative/ local, where the political competition was more open since male Catholic citizens could participate. The non expedit limited the participation of Catholic male voters to campaigning and to the creation of parties that would support Catholics. As long as male suffrage was “restrained”, and the Roman Question was not resolved, [36] Catholics found political expression in the different structures of political parties whose primary aim was not to take power through elections. [37] Catholics, like socialists, privileged local politics and involvement in community groups. [38] Unable to vote and largely uninterested in elections, these passive citizens mobilized outside the electoral arena in order to make their political claims heard. [39]

21The two national contexts, therefore, placed women citizens in seemingly similar positions: they could not vote, but for different reasons. [40] In the French context of universal suffrage and ralliement, but also at a time when parties were structuring the political landscape, the Church hierarchy needed to rely on women to help influence male voters. The Catholic hierarchy presented the absence of the franchise for women as the condition which enabled organized Catholic women to overcome partisan cleavages: women would realize the unity that men could not since they were not embedded in party politics. [41] In both cases, there was no question of a direct vote for women. But the limits of the prohibition differed depending on national political configurations.

Effects of the local context on conceptions of collective action

22In the context of the coordination of women’s claims shortly after 1900, the Woman Question and that of suffrage seemed to gain a foothold in some Catholic circles in the region of Milan. [42] More specifically, Italian Catholic women like Adelaide Coari and Luisa Anzoletti advocated greater civil, economic and political equality between men and women in line with the Christian democratic project. [43] Three factors made Milan the center of Christian feminism: it was an industrial city where a bourgeois and cultured female elite was present on the social terrain, where political forces organized according to the framework of the modern democratic system, and consequently, where Catholic males were receptive to Christian democracy.

23The feminist Congress of Milan, held in 1907 and promoted by Adelaide Coari and Sabina Parravicino’s Fascio democratico-cristiano femminile (a feminist group that aimed to bring together Catholic Christian-Democrats), elaborated a modest feminist agenda in line with other feminist secular groups in Milan. Included in the program was discussion about the vote, as well as equal pay and the access of women to occupations and professions, all signifying the openness to modernity found among these Milanese Christian feminists. Their agenda differed from that of their male religious counterparts, however, in how they understood the Woman Question and in their emphasis on women’s work and supposedly feminine qualities. This Christian feminist movement was rapidly marginalized. The Pope twice showed his willingness to bring to heel any attempt to reconcile feminism and Catholicism: first came the nomination of Elena Persico, who was close to the pontifical line, to the head of the Milanese Catholic magazine L’Azione muliebre in 1904 in order to combat the influence of Adelaide Coari; then came the choice to name Dominican tertiary Cristina Giustiniani Bandini as President of the UDCI. The claim for administrative (municipal) suffrage clearly constituted the most important breaking point between orthodox Catholics and those suspected of modernist sensibilities. [44] This movement thus suffered the same fate as that of the Christian democrats in the Opera dei Congressi, [45] permanently preventing Catholic women from intervening in national political competitions.

24Just as in the Milanese case, Catholic and local electoral configurations in France influenced the establishment of the LPDF and its views. While holding the rallié line on a national scale, some local committees were able to openly support the Ligue d’Action française [League for French Action]. [46] This was notably the case in the Le Mans committee, founded with the help of Madame Havard de la Montagne, wife of a journalist for Action française. The Marquise Madeleine Leclercq de Juigné, heir of the Schneider industrial dynasty, assumed control of the group in 1908 and supported the political career of her husband who was elected deputy of the Loire-Inférieure in 1906 and opposed Action libérale populaire. The papal condemnation of L’Action française in 1926 provided an opportunity to formulate the positions of local LPDF committees and to expose tensions concerning what political line they would adopt. [47]

The religious logic of women’s political participation

Distinguishing themselves from secular feminists

25As a result of a radical government offensive in France and a liberal government in Italy, the Catholic Church, attached to the traditional gender hierarchy where men and the values associated with them were dominant, nonetheless yielded to accommodate certain women. These women, who based their claims for autonomous organization on the qualities associated with their sex (defenders of virtue, instruments of family regeneration, devotees of order), saw themselves called to the mission of defending the Church and other women. The organization of Catholic women happened at the same time as, and was inherently related to, the organization of feminist women within the Conseil national des femmes françaises [National Council of French Women] and the National Council of Italian Women (CNDI). [48] These latter two federations promoted civil equality between the sexes, the right to vote, the right to work, and were associated with secularism. [49] The main difficulty for the organized Catholics was to distinguish themselves from these “bad” feminists, in order to assert that “true feminism” can only be Christian. [50] This is what Baroness Reille, President of the LPDF from 1906 to 1910, claimed:


“They will treat us as eccentric women who busy themselves with politics; they will say that we are feminists. Concerning politics, we do not want to be part of it; it is too far beneath us! As for feminism, may God keep us from upending the order established by him! We accept and we love our role as women; we only ask to be devoted auxiliaries; but because men are failing in their task and our prayers are no longer sufficient, we shall unite to fight and to win.” [51]

27Reclaiming the gender hierarchy, the Baroness nevertheless specifies situations where women can accomplish activities considered masculine. The weakness of men in public affairs makes necessary the intervention of “strong women”, of “virile Christian women” who will compensate for the failing men. This discourse is close to the Christian feminism founded in France by Marie Maugeret in 1896. An anti-Dreyfusard [52] who was anxious to gain the support of the Catholic hierarchy, Marie Maugeret brought together several hundred people in her Parisian movement. This movement distinguished itself from other Catholic groups by its promotion of women’s suffrage and its nationalism. [53] She also organized the Joan of Arc Conference every year, where the League of French Women, the Patriotic League of French Women, and other Catholic groups were represented.

28In Italy, opposition to Masonic feminism was theorized by the president and communicated in her conferences. [54] The true roots of feminism were found, according to her, in Christianity, which had freed women as well as men.

29If the need of Catholic women’s groups to assert their differences from feminism as it was defined by national organizations affiliated with the International Council of Women was so pressing, this is because of the strong competition between the Catholics and feminist groups in the domain of social reform. The uniqueness of Catholic groups was in the creation of social work projects anchored in a charitable tradition, with an apostolic purpose. [55] What lay behind this social action for both associations was the idea that the restoration of a Christian society would not come about primarily by way of voting, but through social work. [56] In the French case, social action could also lead as far as indirect entrance into electoral competition, as happened within the Conservative party in Britain; [57] without going as far as demanding the vote, however, because the League members saw their political action as guided by a belief in the complementarity between women’s and men’s work.

30Catholic hierarchy and the organization of women: between patriarchal tradition and pragmatism

31Politics was defined by the Catholic hierarchy – and more generally by the politicians of the time – as an activity that was, before all else, masculine. The sudden growth of women’s organizations for collective action, which had been accepted under Pope Leo XIII, was not so clearly encouraged under his successor Pius X, who was dedicated to fighting modernism within and outside the Church. Needing to address the development of a modernist trend first in France and then in Italy, he was reluctant to see the rise of collective action by women which was intended to intervene in public affairs, as the founder of the UDCI states in her manuscript on the history of the UDCI.


“The Holy Father… has shown himself to be against all women’s organizations and good-naturedly added in his charming Venetian dialect, ‘Woman: may she please, may she stay quiet and may she remain in the home’.
I replied that, certainly, this would be more convenient, but when women have become a target, as seen in the interest shown by the [Masonic] faction in this first [feminist] Congress [in Rome], and some of the statements made by notorious masons, it becomes necessary for us, Catholic women, not only to defend ourselves, but to look after and save our imprudent sisters who are in danger.” [58]

33The Roman aristocrat therefore mobilized her social and religious connections to persuade the Roman Curia. She intended, with the support of the Pope, to create a power struggle that would be favorable to Catholic women as opposed to secular and socialist feminists, but that would also disadvantage the Christian feminists brought together under the Milanese Women’s Federation. Thus, in the name of the defense of the Church itself, certain women who possessed significant social capital managed to destabilize the gender hierarchy at the heart of the Catholic institution, without questioning power relations explicitly or assertively. [59]

34The argument about imminent danger convinced the Pope of the necessity of allowing these women to defend themselves in order to spread the influence of the Church and to bring the wandering sheep back to orthodoxy. And who better to create a rampart against the Masonic offensive than activists driven by faith in the struggle? The argument about a unique female “nature” was deployed here to enable, right within the heart of the Church, the constitution of these “female phalanxes” that were rising to haul up the banner of the Church and save the endangered fatherland.

The risks of political labeling

35One of the major issues for conservative women’s mobilization was how collective action by Catholic women might be deemed acceptable or unacceptable. In the context of the Pope’s attempts to discipline Christian democracy (notable examples including the dissolution of the Opera dei Congressi in Italy and the dissolution of Sillon[60] in France in 1910), being labeled as political meant encountering disapproval and criticism. But, depending on whether you were a Catholic in Rome or Milan, or in Paris or the Vendée, political meant different things. The search for approval from the Catholic hierarchy of new forms of apostolate among organized Catholics was part of the struggle to define legitimate activism.

36For the leaders of the LPDF, the women who disobeyed pontifical directives were those who chose the royalist camp, where one put “politics first”. The association signed onto the efforts of Albert de Mun and Jacques Piou to create a large gathering of moderate Catholics in France, following the example of the German political party Zentrum. [61] As the new president elect, Viscomtesse de Vélard stated, the “female politicians” were monarchists because they contested the Republican regime and the pontifical line of the Ralliement. Political divisions, i.e. party politics, were not accepted in relation to the fundamental principles of the organization of power. To discuss different regime types would be equivalent to questioning the conciliatory politics of Leo XIII and, moreover, be contrary to the liberal or rallié Catholics in France. This opinion is clear in the letter the president sent to her mother, a League member, on 3 July 1910. She explained her refusal to unite with the Marquise de Mac-Mahon’s Action Française, despite the Marquise’s presence in the LPDF since its inception, because “Madame de M[ac] M[ahon] is the leader of a political group. She announces it loudly; her goal is to reestablish the monarchy”. [62] The accusation of “doing politics” amounted to discrediting the militant actions of royalist women, which questioned the attempts to organize Catholics within Action Libérale populaire. Women’s political organizing thus appeared to be out of line with Church hierarchy, and all the initial work of women’s associations was essentially an effort to legitimize their existence while avoiding being labeled “political” activists.

37Being labeled as political also served to delegitimize Catholic women’s action in Italy. The president defended herself against this, playing on the meaning of the term.


“Only in religion, in the Church and with the Church, will we, Italian women, be able to attain all our providential ends and raise ourselves […] to the highest peaks of moral and civic life. Is it political, the divine mission of the Catholic Church? We will be openly with the Catholic Church, even at the cost of appearing to be what our adversaries accuse us of being.” [63]

39The leaders of the UDCI were “intransigent”, in other words, they did not endorse any compromise with modernity and liberalism. For Italian Catholic women who were close to Christian Democracy or even liberal, the UDCI’s hard line position was judged to be too partisan, too close to the pope’s views, and closed off to democracy; it was consequentially a source of conflict about Catholic women’s position within the Kingdom of Italy. This conflict put into question the way in which Catholicism was tied to national belonging in the context of tension between the pope and the leaders of the Kingdom of Italy. [64]

40The president of the UDCI deflected the stigma by accusing promoters of women’s suffrage of being “political”. It was therefore the liberal Catholics, those accused of promoting modernism, who were guilty of political actions. Indeed, the pontifical rule of Pius X was marked by the growing intensity of the fight against modernism. [65] The question of applying historical frameworks to the interpretation of religious texts quickly spilled beyond intellectual and religious circles to spread into aspects of social life in Italy more widely. And yet, among the promoters of Americanism and modernism in Italy was the countess Sabina Parravicino Thaon di Revel (1865-1944). This Catholic who was supportive of democratic ideas was the translator of writings by bishops from the dioceses of the East coast of the United States, which encouraged secularists and the clergy to work with neutral or Protestant organizations to face the “social question” and oppose the worker’s movement. [66] She worked with progressive Catholic magazines and wanted to bring Catholics and feminists together. Corriere della Sera’s publication in April 1914 of her correspondence with her spiritual director, Cardinal Rampolla, archbishop of Milan and former secretary of state of Pope Leo XIII, provoked the ire of the Roman president: the letters, tinged with modernism, liberalism and the contestation of papal authority, earned her “excommunication” by the president and her resignation in 1914.

41Thus, the difficulties a political label posed for women’s associations who were opposed to the principles and practices of feminist activism, led to multiple re-appropriations of the term “political”. If “political” was identified as masculine, the comparison between France and Italy shows us that, depending on the type of Catholicism, and national (if not local) political party configuration, the term could indicate activism engaged in by traditionalist Catholics just as much as activism led by more liberal Catholics.

The two spiritual models of Catholic women’s action

42The transgression of gender norms in the defense of distinct sexual identities was made possible by means of a theological justification for the intervention of women in public affairs.

Reconquest by language: The Dominican influence on the UDCI

43The Italian association, created and led by a Dominican woman, maintained from her original order a characteristic of friar preachers: it was thus by language and by culture that the UDCI would lead “the wandering sheep back to the flock”. The activism of the UDCI rested on the idea that all authority comes from God. Contrary to modernism, one must restore all to Christ and usher in his reign on earth through rigorous religious practice and the conformity of the laws of man with divine law. [67] This vulgate was spread by means of bulletins and more importantly by the conferences of the indefatigable Cristina Giustiniana Bandini. In February of 1910, l’Azione cattolica femminile, the bulletin for the leaders of the Unione femminile cattolica, and for adherents to the UDCI, published a text that summarized the apostolic mission of Italian Catholic women and defined legitimate political practice for these women. As the association primarily intended to impart a spiritual and moral education, “it aimed to bring together Italian women in order to reaffirm their profession of the Catholic faith, to help them spread a sound culture adapted to the mission of the Christian woman, and to make more efficient and practical, and more adapted to the necessities of the time, the work to which woman is dedicated, in the field of religion, charity, and social work. [68]

44Showing a certain pragmatism regarding the need for the Church to respond in a modern way to the issues of a democratic and industrial society, the president clarified the goals for female Catholic activism. The UDCI essentially defined its main vocation as bringing together Italian Catholic women to help them accomplish their divine mission and their apostolate work in a suitable way for their times. The Union urged a large gathering of Catholic Italian women, provided that they shared this “virile” faith that animated the spirits of the elite. In calling on the natural community of women and the fatherland, the president used a theme of “similarity” to mobilize Catholic women. She thus proposed to Catholic women that they widen the terrain of their apostolate work, calling for them to bring the city of man into conformity with the city of God through religious education and works.

45In this manner, women’s political activism was acceptable since it was understood not as divisive partisan activity, but rather as the action of Christian women extending the influence of the Church to all parts of social life. It was a way of undermining the presumption of partisanship associated with politics that threatened the legitimacy of women’s Catholic activism.


“The good Christian cannot remain indifferent to the atheism of the state that governs: if he has the power, he must put himself to work so that his faith is not maligned, but everywhere respected and represented sincerely – in municipalities, in Parliaments, in offices, in chambers of commerce, in charity congregations. We need to make the efficiency of our faith felt everywhere, if we have a living faith. Is it the faith of a political party? It is the ancient faith of our martyrs and our mothers who inspire our whole agenda.”

47The exercise of power was not, therefore, achieved by choosing representatives but rather by direct involvement in all institutions where social and/or economic power was held. But this evolution, this re-appropriation of modernity could only happen if it was anchored in the religious practice of women. Thus, the president recalls here female Christian martyrs, ancient mothers, mothers of the fatherland, and mothers of the Church who also harken back to a time when women could baptize and when they were freed from ancient slavery, because Christ had made them the equal of men in the eyes of God. [69]

Catholic women’s re-appropriation of forms of modern political activity

48From this point, how was the tension resolved between this rejection of women’s suffrage and the need to use the modern means available to democratic regimes to rally massive electoral support?

Positions regarding suffrage

The UDCI’s electoral abstinence

49As long as the franchise was not available to all in Italy, the rejection of women’s suffrage seemed logical within the UDCI. But following the 1912 reform, the question of women’s suffrage was very discreetly posed in the UDCI’s internal publications. An article published at the end of 1912 by Paolina Carloni showed more of a rejection of suffragism than of suffrage itself. This is an important emphasis.


“Certainly, when such a right [to administrative and political voting] is recognized for women, it will be our duty to profit from it; it cannot be otherwise if we do not wish to renounce a weapon that, in sectarian hands, turns quickly against important Christian principles, precipitating the ruin of the family. But we will not raise a single finger to hasten this day, persuaded as we are that it is not in the winds of political passions that the most beneficent influence of women is exercised!” [70]

51As long as women did not have the right to vote, it was not for Catholic women to precipitate its obtainment. That said, once the right was obtained, Catholic women hoped to make use of it as a weapon to oppose the agendas of radicals and liberals who were hostile to the temporal power of the Church. [71] This pragmatic position was quickly opposed by President Cristina Giustiniana Bandini, who was more traditional. The circular written on 24 December 1912 reminds the presidents of local committees that it was necessary to “leave politics aside”.


“The general elections will take place in Italy this year. Remember that, if ever it was necessary, in the interest of our collective movement, we must abstain from all that could resemble support for the electoral campaign that will be enthusiastically run by political parties. It is for this reason that the Office of the President is determined to recommend to our Committees not to take part in Conferences promoted by male ‘Unions’ and associations or the diocesan Directors for the duration of the year 1913, where, even in the best analytical terms, the subject of elections will necessarily be handled.” [72]

53The discussions and partisan divisions that the participation of Catholics in electoral campaigns implied worried the president of the UDCI. The Union not only faced tension related to the traditional stance of its president, but also the neighboring fight of male Catholic unions seemed likely to threaten the hard-won autonomy of the UDCI. [73] Religious conflict over the relationship between secular and ordained was coupled with a gender conflict concerning the autonomy of female collective action. So the Union of Catholic Women of Italy needed to submit to the directives of the Electoral Union, the only group authorized to settle these questions for Italian Catholics. It was up to Catholic women to attend to morality if they wanted men to make good laws. [74]

Beyond ralliement: a demonstration of the incomplete acceptance of the democratic regime

54The discourse of the Italian president illustrates one of the paradoxes of this invisible politicization of women that was necessary to restore the power of the Church. This politicization of social work – which became the instrument of political transformation and in this way went from being a charitable practice to being an effort to strengthen Christian principles in society – operated in France by revealing the incomplete ralliement to the Republic. It also cast doubt on the labeling effect: the LPDF claimed to be a proponent of liberalism, just like the ALP did. But its refusal of suffrage demonstrated just as much a refusal to act like men as it showed distrust for a system where authority comes from the people. The constitutional plan written by the social studies section of the ALP proposed family-based suffrage along the Belgian model, as well as an electoral college of super-delegates appointed to represent their professions, all of which suggest the degree to which members of this section accepted the Republic. [75] As with the ALP, the political plans of the LPDF relied on a social order governed by corporations and where political authority came from God. The indirect participation of women in electoral competition was presented as the pursuit of the struggle for religious reconquest on the institutional terrain. Suffrage, then, was seen as only one method among others for bringing the laws of man back in line with the laws of God, and not as the final expression of popular sovereignty.

A gendered repertoire of action?

55To understand the way in which these conservative women tried to change laws and impose on France their conception of public debate without ever casting a ballot, an analysis of their action repertoire in light of their gender proves interesting. [76] That is to say that the ensemble of methods used to act collectively was constrained by the inegalitarian representation system that excluded women from democratic political representation, as well as by the social affiliations of members within this group. To be legitimate, the collective action of Catholic women needed to re-appropriate actions performed by men, whilst distinguishing themselves from the activism of feminists and socialist women.

56What, then, was specific to the “repertoire of conservative women’s activism”? Like men, they used “methods of autonomous activism different from those the authorities made use of”, but while excluding (for example) all recourse to public authority or force, they defended their interest in an associative framework. This associative framework was not only used by women; but while men had a wider range of collective organizational forms available to them, associative politics became practically the sole form of mobilization for women.

57They challenged the authorities over Republican secular politics by proposing the maternal and educational functions that they considered specifically feminine. The first petition written by Catholic women that collected several million signatures was taken to the President of the Republic’s wife, Madame Loubet, by the leader of the LPDF in 1901. During discussions in the Chamber on 13 May 1905, Mademoiselle Frossard presented the work carried out by the League during the Joan of Arc Conference. In just a couple weeks, the League had already gathered more than 525,000 signatures, 30,000 coming from Toulouse and 25,000 from Brittany. [77] They would have four million signatures by the time of the vote on the law of 1905.

58They held gatherings where they outlined their programs. But these gatherings sometimes seemed more like a salon than a public meeting. “The public presentation of the program” was accomplished via pamphlets, the press, or advertisement in the streets.

59Street demonstrations, less frequent but more spectacular, were part of the new activities performed by these conservative women. The first important demonstration was held in July 1902 in Paris, and according to the ALP and the LPDF, they brought together 50,000 people. Presented as the “mothers of the family” demonstration, it was a way for the conservatives to create a power struggle by using a routine tactic from the labor movement’s repertoire of collective action. The leaders of the LPDF claimed responsibility for not “leaving the street to the Apaches”. [78] In this way, they re-appropriated the labor movement’s preferred place for public expression. [79]

60This discourse was absent from the men’s association allied with the LPDF, which did not want to place itself on the same battleground as the men of its rival party. The demonstration at the Place de la Concorde was legitimate because it was women who had organized it. Activists in ALP did not use this style of activism, but preferred lobbying, a kind of propaganda that was more in line with the elite circles to which they belonged. [80] Because aristocrats within the LPDF were women, they escaped the need to distinguish themselves from other classes, and could, when necessary, use techniques of the labor movement to provoke a power struggle. The patronage of Joan of Arc, which enabled them to assume the role of the female combatant against “partisan politics” by drawing from history this model of a female warrior who could justify their activism, protected them against the accusation of breaking into the male world of combative tactics and action. But, in this time of supposedly “universal” suffrage, the pamphlet and the ballot had replaced the swords. And the staging of a crowd could aid in creating a power struggle with government. Attentive to labor movement mobilization and the methods used by “masonic” feminists to spread their influence, the leaders of the LPDF did not shirk away from demonstrations that, in order to work, needed to remain the exception rather than the norm.

61The demonstration was open to both men and women. The aristocratic women wore hats, which created a stunning sight. Even though men were present, it was the “mothers” who were the focal point. [81]

62In addition to these “classic” actions, the women of the LPDF engaged in two particular activities with specifically gendered associations: the use of influence and the fight against electoral fraud. This is not to say that the mobilization of networks or the policing of electoral fraud were monopolized by Catholic women. [82] But these actions were legitimated within the LPDF because they corresponded to contemporary gender norms and expected feminine behavior. From the distribution of ballots to the announcement of poll results, women could participate in some of the activities that take place during the different stages of electoral competition. [83] The challenge for the associations was to legitimate the participation of Catholic women in activities related to the vote, activities that were normally performed by men.

Illustration 1

Demonstration by the “Mothers of the family”

Illustration 1

Demonstration by the “Mothers of the family”

Source: L’Illustration, 3101, 2 August 1902, p. 32.

Voting under the influence of Catholic women’s organisations

63Although they opposed suffragism, winning back the country via the ballot box was the first objective of these women’s groups, as the Viscomtesse de Vélard recalled on the 25th anniversary of the LPDF in 1927.


“The occasion presented itself, and was auspicious thanks to the elections of May 1902. But… how could women make the first step toward civic action when we could not plan a single direct tactic, when the women’s vote wasn’t yet being talked about? Two methods of activism were open to Christian woman: that of exercising a methodical and organized influence, and that of gathering the funding necessary for an electoral campaign.” [84]

65The first method that allowed women to intervene indirectly in the vote was influencing the men. [85] At the same time that gender norms were transgressed in practical ways, they were discursively strengthened. They lent to women the power of influence, of shaping opinions and reviving the courage of Catholic men, recalling here the gender stereotypes that associate influence and persuasion with feminine powers. The League members themselves willingly echoed this gendered script, as we can see in this article written by an anonymous member of the League:


“Finally, let us try to act on our husbands by convincing them to vote correctly. Because, let’s not forget, all depends on these elections… If you want it, women, you can do it because France has the intelligence, the desire, and much more power than we think. On multiple occasions, in fact, it was women who saved the Fatherland. Remember Judith who saved the Jewish nation, remember Joan of Arc who saved France.” [86]

67For Baroness Reille, the second President from 1906 to 1910, “Women need to recreate the mentality of the country”. The organizers of the LPDF therefore needed to “work the field”, [87] convincing men to vote correctly or, when they were from the elite, to become candidates. Baroness Reille returned to this theme of influence during the Congress of Rennes in 1904, which was held after the municipal elections.


“We have left our mark on these recent municipal elections, and this shows that we are not too presumptuous when we aim to change the mentality of France… We have protested against indifference and now, no man would dare to confess that he is not interested in electoral battles; he would be welcomed home by a smile of contempt… We have protested against the closing of schools, against the theft of our liberties; we have not succeeded, but we will not give up the fight, and may we educate those who are misled.” [88]

69In this way, while other forms of collective action remained fruitless, the leaders insisted on persuasion in order to revive the energy of their members. They also toned down the reproach against “doing politics”, as we saw above, because this seemed to be the only method remaining for League members to exercise their rights.

Cleaning the electoral lists

70Another activity said to be legitimate and becoming for women: the cleaning-up of political life through the fight against electoral fraud (from the point of view of the League members this meant at the prefectoral level) and the marshalling of electors. The electoral report given during the Congress of 1906 by the Baroness de Boury, in charge of the Press Section of the LPDF, offers a glimpse into the electoral knowhow of some League members.


“I am persuaded that all of our press efforts will be useless from the point of view of the elections if we do not manage to revise the electoral lists. Our press delegates can already help with this by categorizing all who receive good and bad newspapers where they live; in the cities, it is more difficult, but I know however one zealous woman who, in 1902, in one single neighborhood of Paris, succeeded in having 1,200 names removed from the list which shouldn’t have been on it. I also know that in Nantes, the same strategy met with success. In Marseille, we all know the results achieved four years ago in the municipal elections by revising the lists. I could also cite a Parisian outskirt where, this year, several thousand voters were crossed off, which allowed us to fight with a chance of success. » [89]

Illustration 2

The sexual division of electoral labor

Illustration 2

The sexual division of electoral labor

Source: Archives de la Province de France, the Pupey-Girard Foundation, IPd655.

72This report, which at first glance did not focus on electoral work, recollected the electoral work of the League members. Since 1902, the women had seized the democratic institution, “grooming” the electoral lists even though no women appeared on them, and distributing propaganda for “good candidates”. The electoral manuals given to ALP activists were also distributed to the LPDF, and they explained the workings of the electoral system. [90] Local committees of the LPDF called upon the most zealous women parishioners to find out who the good and bad voters were. They established a methodical voter classification system, which relied on the information obtained by the dizanière [zealous militants who supervised ten association members] or the dame de quartier [women paid to supervise the propaganda work in their neighborhood], classified according to the type of newspaper families read and their attendance to religious duties. They then verified registrations on the electoral lists and pointed out instances of fraud. The electoral code stipulated that all citizens could obtain a copy of the electoral lists, but that only voters had the right to make complaints about them. The Press Section, who had instituted the systematic and methodical surveillance of the neighborhoods, was the place to learn how to conduct this important work of updating electoral lists. It worked with voters associations to make the men do what the electoral code forbade them from doing as women.

73The cleaninig-up of political life, by women who felt themselves to be more virtuous and naturally talented at ordering and putting order into public life, took a very concrete form here. The existence of this activity was confirmed by the Sûreté générale who stated that “In sum, we never before saw such a rousing of the electoral body in Marseille, especially in circles that were hostile to socialists”. [91] The number of registered voters increased. In the constituency of Nantes, Mademoiselle de Beaulieu, a conference organizer, indicated that “Our propaganda and the revision of electoral lists that we brought about in a district where there was ‘a blocard candidate’ [blocard being a pejorative term for candidates from the Republican bloc] helped to a certain degree in taking 5,000 votes from him.” [92] In the Lotet-Garonne department, where Mademoiselle Forcade presided over the committee, the LPDF “had frequently been the coffer that facilitated, through pamphlets or posters, responses to slander against the Catholic candidate; and which inundated every home with a beautiful pastoral letter on the serious and present duty of the French voter”. [93]

74Electoral activity did not only aim to promote good candidates, but also to ensure that the vote would unfold in the desired way by purging the electoral lists of voters unduly registered, and privileging the registration of good voters. The externalization of these tasks to unpaid female volunteers was part of a sexual division of political labor in a modern democracy that was reminiscent of the division of roles within the English Primrose League. [94] This sexual division of electoral work was not found in Italy where the male Catholic electoral committees did not exist because of the non expedit, and where the situation of the UDCI – in the midst of a traditionalist turn – prevented Catholic activists from getting too close to the ballot box.


76* *

77Through this Franco-Italian comparison, two national models of female engagement can be identified: depending on the structure of the political terrain and how the Catholic men were organized in the political competition, the women’s groups organized under the leadership of the clergy did not use the same collective action strategies. The French League members, close to Catholic men who had entered into politics, used a conservative female repertoire of collective action that both borrowed modern techniques to win votes, and conformed to “feminine” activities. Yet the Italian political and religious context did not leave room for such electoral intervention by Catholic women. They were close to the Catholic Electoral Union, which did not aim for electoral victories but rather the education of Catholic citizens. These national patterns, set out here in broad terms, become more complex when the level of comparison is no longer national (two-dimensional), but local, or at the level of the feminist and women’s groups themselves. The Catholic women’s organizations were opposed to secular feminists and proposed a model of collective action that was complementary to the collective action of their male religious counterparts. While the association of Italian women, marked by traditionalism, proposed methods of collective action that were strongly anchored in a traditional political repertoire – reliant on the patron-client relationship, but starting to become national in outlook – the association of French women recommended strategies to its members that borrowed from modern mobilization techniques. In the name of complementarity, the conservative women of the LPDF re-appropriated the activist methods of the labor movement: demonstrations in the street and the entitlement of members to a range of social support services for women (a mutual insurance system, compensation for women following childbirth, daycare for children, job placement assistance, etc.). The men of the ALP, however, could not legitimately use these methods because such methods were central to their political rivals, labor movements and Action française (condemned by two popes for its resort to street violence).

78The stance of these associations changed with the First World War. The participation of Catholics in the governments of the Union sacrée, [95] the accession of a “democratic” Pope in 1914, and the part women played in the war effort all ultimately legitimated claims for women’s suffrage. The right to vote became a conceivable means of action for the LPDF in 1919 and for the UDCI in 1917. Thus began an era of civic preparation for Catholic French and Italian women that would be quickly ended in Italy and abandoned in France in 1933 when the LPDF merged with the League of French Women.



79These two organizations maintained archives that provided the principle research material for this article. The archives of the LPDF are held at Action catholique des femmes in Paris. They show the bureaucratization and professionalization of the association’s political engagement and its willingness to conserve traces of orthodoxy during its early years. The UDCI archives, however, are primarily personal archives, those of its founder and president. They are maintained at the Church of Santa Sabina in Rome, in the general archives of the Order of Preachers. The documents held at the Vatican Secret Archives – correspondence with the Catholic hierarchy and annual reports – completed these sources, along with the archives of the Sûreté générale for France. The Vatican Secret Archives index rule-breaking: the top of the hierarchy was the last court of appeal for resolving conflicts within Catholic institutions. Catholic leaders also looked toward the Vatican to learn what positions they should adopt. The Sûreté générale observed the LPDF because of its political character and its role in elections. The Italian association was never the subject of such observation by Italian authorities during the liberal period (1900-1914), undoubtedly because it did not participate in elections.

The split in 1907 between the LPDF and the ALP

80ASV, Seg. di Stato, anno 1907, rubr. 12, fasc. 7, no 25929, copy of a telegram from Cardinal Merry del Val to Baroness Reille, president of the LPDF, Rome, 30 September 1909. He thanks her for the report on the previous congress and indicates the position to adopt for the new congress of 1907.

81“He made me note once again the eminent apostolic and social character of your great Association. The 330 committees of the League attest to the unstoppable growth of this work and of the good it does, to encourage you and give you hope for the future of your dear country. The Holy Father heartily approved the declaration by which you wish to offer yourselves, as ‘the humble, docile and zealous auxiliaries of the clergy’. Numerous testimonies from bishops have shown that your wishes are approved. Whilst maintaining the loyalty of the leaders and subgroups of your association which lends your union its strength, you also know how to delegate your most precious cooperation among the various works of the Church of France.

82From the Venerable Cardinal of Paris and from many bishops, you have received the most benevolent encouragement. The Holy Father, who has already shown you all the satisfaction that he has from your great work, rejoices in its progress. He hopes that the League takes flight and soars ever higher. The clarity of its agenda, the ends it proposes, its propaganda tactics, the strategies it employs in its work, the patronage of the bishops, the presence of a chaplain who is accredited by Cardinal S. E. of Paris on its board of directors, are all guarantees of its apostolic character, quite apart from political action. The Holy Father approves of you and encourages you to pursue the task you have undertaken with confidence for the good of the Church and of France.

83Current conditions cannot but further attract the sympathy and participation of Christian women, members of religious associations who will find, in devoting themselves to this group, a joyful application of the spirit of apostolic work.

84You will prepare a new Congress for the month of October next, with the same conditions as last year.

85In praising you with such enthusiasm, S.S. sends you his fullest support and grants to you the apostolic benediction, as well as to all the Christian women of France who take part in this group.”

Christian Feminism according to the UDCI

86Cristina Giustiniani Bandini composed the text of one of her conference speeches, “Azione cattolica et femminiso odierno”, onto a number of sheets in which she outlines the distinction between her movement and feminism. This extract clearly explains the difference between the two movements and the attempt by the Catholic association to re-appropriate feminism.

87“Woman is the best Christian evangelist, because all of Christianity is the law of love, as God himself is love; and no one can understand this better than woman, or have a stronger intuition of virtue. To take from woman her silent mission of purification and sacrifice in society would simply precipitate the ruin of this dignity that Christ has led her to. It is for that reason that the modern, non-believing agitators are the main ones responsible for women’s demands; it is for that reason that today’s women’s movement is mainly supported and encouraged by socialists. While the widespread development of Christian feminism will always be a sign of the kind of social progress desired by the very spirit of Christianity, and to which the Church will never pose an obstacle, a movement that is not guided by the high ideals of Christians will be an anomaly, a true aberration! Ladies, I love the feminism that lifts woman up without making her lose her decorum or womanly attributes, and I condemn the competition and struggle between women and men which, in being opposed to the divine precepts of Christianity, is opposed to the very nature of femininity: pleasant and loving, not eager for honor but for sacrifice. I will exclude any women’s organization that is fundamentally fanatical and exaggerated, and I will support any women’s organization that is based on good sense and temperance. [96]


  • [1]
    Annarita Buttafuocco, Questioni di cittadinanza. Donne e diritti sociali nell’Italia liberale (Sienne: Protagon editori Toscani, 1995); Anna Rossi Doria, Diventare cittadine, il voto alle donne in Italia (Turin: Riuniti, 1996); Gianna Pomata (ed.), Ragnatele di rapporti (Turin: Rosenberg & Sellier, 1988); Giulia Galeotti, Storia del voto alle donne in Italia (Rome: Biblink, 2006); Michèle Riot-Sarcey, Femmes et pouvoir (Paris: Kimé, 1993); Anne Verjus, Le cens de la famille (Paris: Belin, 2002).
  • [2]
    Lucetta Scaraffia, “Fondatrice et imprenditrice”, in Emma Fattorini (ed.), Santi, culti, simboli nell’età della secolarizzazione (1815-1915) (Turin: Rosenberg & Sellers, 1997), 479-91.
  • [3]
    Austrian legislation permitted single landed women (such as widows and the unmarried) to vote in municipal elections in Venice and Lombardy.
  • [4]
    Bernard Lacroix, “Ordre politique et ordre social”, in Madeleine Grawitz and Jean Leca (eds), Traité de science politique, t. 1: La science politique, ordre sociale, ordre politique (Paris: PUF, 1985), 469-565; Jaques Lagroye (ed.), La Politisation (Paris: Belin, 2003); Yves Déloye, La sociologie historique du politique (Paris: La Découverte, 2007). On the politicization of men in Italy in structures put in place by local elites: Gilles Pécout, “Les sociétés de tir dans l’Italie unifiée de la seconde moitié du 19e siècle”, Mélanges de l’École française de Rome-Italie Méditerranée, 102(2), 1990, 533-676; Maurizio Ridolfi, Il circolo virtuoso. Sociabilità democratica, associazionismo e rappresentenza politica nell’Ottocento (Florence: Centro editoriale toscano, 1990).
  • [5]
    Recueil de statuts”, H1, Archives de l’Action catholique des femmes [Archives of Catholic Women’s Action, AACF]. It first took the name Ligue patriotique libérale des Françaises [Liberal Patriotic League of French Women] on 21 May 1902, then Ligue patriotique des Françaises action libérale populaire [Patriotic League of French Women – Popular Liberal Action] on 13 June 1902.
  • [6]
    These numbers are taken from both Sûreté générale [General Security, a predecessor to France’s National Police, concerned with the surveillance of associational activity and of individuals suspected of threatening the public order] and Vatican informants. Membership and political demonstration figures provided by the League cannot be established with certainty: while we know the League maintained files on its membership data because they are mentioned in the archives and in a series of circulars, the association did not save these files.
  • [7]
    For the French history: Florence Rochefort and Laurence Klejman, L’égalité en marche, le féminisme sous la Troisième République (Paris: Des Femmes/Presses de Sciences Po, 1989); Paul Smith, Feminism and the Third Republic: Women’s Political and Civil Rights in France, 1918-1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996); Christine Bard, Les filles de Marianne, histoire des féminismes (1914-1945) (Paris: Fayard, 1995). For the Italian history: Franca Pieroni Bortolotti, Alle origini del movimento femminile in Italia (1848-1892) (Torino: Einaudi, 1963); Franca Pieroni Bortolotti, Femminismo e partiti politici in Italia (1919-1926) (Roma: Riuniti, 1978); Lucetta Scaraffia and Anna Maria Isastia, Donne ottimiste. Femminismo e associazioni borghesi nell’Ottocento et Novecento (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2002); Maria Linda Odorisio, Monica Turi and Lucetta Scaraffia (eds), Donna o cosa? I movimenti femminili in Italia dal Risorgimento a oggi (Turin: Cara, 1991).
  • [8]
    The historian Odile Sarti was the first to envision this political activity in the context of secularization in A Feminine Response to the Secularization of French Society (New York: Garland, 1992). The work of Bruno Dumons (Les dames de la Ligue des femmes françaises (Paris: Cerf, 2006)) highlights the role women in the League of French Women played during the election of 1902. Yet, this association explicitly withdrew from politics to return to “strictly religious” terrain. Anne Cova shows how maternity served as the gateway into public affairs for these Catholic organizations (Au service de l’Église, de la patrie et de la famille. Femmes catholiques et maternité sous la Troisième République (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2000)). She does not dwell on the processes that led to their inclusion in electoral activity, nor their retreat from it after 1919. A monograph is available in Italy, but the political role of the UDCI is rarely evoked. Cf. Cecilia Dau Novelli, Società, Chiesa e associazionismo femminile. L’union fra le donne cattoliche d’Italia (1902-1919) (Roma: A.V.E., 1988); Magali Della Sudda, “Une activité politique féminine conservatrice avant le droit de suffrage en France et en Italie. La ligue patriotique des Françaises (1902-1933) et l’Unione fra le donne cattoliche d’Italia (1909-1919)” (PhD thesis, EHESS/La Sapienza, 2007).
  • [9]
    The classic publication taken from the survey run by UNESCO in 1952 mentions the importance of Catholic women’s organizations in organizing French women, as well as the importance of their role in political socialization. On this point, cf. Mattei Dogan and Jacques Narbonne, “Les incidences politiques des sentiments religieux des femmes”, in Les Françaises face à la politique, comportement politique et condition sociale (Paris: Armand Colin, 1955), 50-60, and Mattei Dogan and Jacques Narbonne “Les organisations féminines et leur rôle dans la propagande politique”, in Les Françaises face à la politique, comportement politique et condition sociale (Paris: Armand Colin, 1955), 113-33. This line of research was not followed before or after the moment of the first electoral consultations.
  • [10]
    Yves Déloye, Les voix de Dieu. Pour une autre histoire du suffrage électoral: le clergé catholique français et le vote 19e-20e siècle (Paris: Fayard, 2006).
  • [11]
    Jean-Pierre Rioux, Nationalisme et conservatisme. La Ligue de la patrie française 1899-1904 (Paris: Beauchesne, 1977). This association was founded after the Dreyfus Affair.
  • [12]
    Archives of the Compagnie de Jésus, Province de France (ASJPF), Pupey-Girard collection (HPu60), “Ligue 1901-1906”, handwritten letter, probably by P. Pupey-Girard, n.d., no name.
  • [13]
    The members of the Society of Daughters of the Heart of Mary are ordained in secret. At the end of their novitiate, they take three vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty, and add to these yet another vow: to keep their ordination secret. In this way, they live in the world without residing in a convent, all the while remaining faithful to their vows and accomplishing their apostolic mission among populations that would be put off by religious garb. Dependent on the Society of Jesus [the religious order of the Jesuits], they were the first to be solicited when the Law of 1901 was passed, because they were the only congregation not to be subject to prefectural authorization due to the secret nature of their organization. Vatican Secret Archives (Archivum Secretum Vaticanum, henceforth ASV), collection of extraordinary ecclesiastic affairs (AA.EE.SS.), Stati ecclesiastici, IV periodo, anno 1930-1933, 446 PO, fasc. 429, “La Société des Filles du cœur de Marie”, typed report, no name, n.d. [1930], 9 pp., ff. 4-12.
  • [14]
    The League of French Women was founded in Lyon in 1901 by Jeanne Lestra and its spiritual director, A. Eymieu; this association set its sights on electoral work. The Parisian committee split off in 1902 following a disagreement over donations to royalist or rallié candidates. Cf. Dumons, Les dames de la Ligue.
  • [15]
    The ralliés were French Catholics who obeyed Pope Leo XIII by ending their opposition to the Republic (a move called ralliement). The beginnings of the Third Republic were marked by conflict between, on the one hand, the clergy, the episcopate, and Catholic notables and, on the other hand, the Republican regime.
  • [16]
    ASV, Collection of the Secretary of State (Sev.di Stato), anno 1907.
  • [17]
    Magali Della Sudda, “La Charité et les affaires. Le cas de la Ligue patriotique des Françaises (1901-1914)”, Entreprise et histoire, 56, 2009.
  • [18]
    Activists in charge of associational propaganda, the conference organizers went to different cities of France to hold conferences. Typically, they were compensated for this work, and some of them were even appointed. Most of them were members of the League’s central committee.
  • [19]
    AACF, H565, circular n 4, 1902.
  • [20]
    AACF, H565, minutes of the 2nd council meeting, n.d., no name.
  • [21]
    Socialist party-French Section of the Workers International/Parti-socialiste-Section française de l’internationale ouvrière, no title. “Déclaration commune des organisations socialistes adoptée le 13 janvier 1906”, 38-9.
  • [22]
    “La Ligue, ce qu’elle est, ce qu’elle veut”, circular n 22, inserted in L’Écho of February 1904, March 1904, and in the L’Echo anthology of 1909.
  • [23]
    ASV, Seg. di Stato, anno 1907, rubr. 12, fasc. 7, n 25 929, copy of a telegram from Cardinal Merry del Val to the Baroness Reille, President of the LPDF, Rome, 30 September 1909.
  • [24]
    Emmanuel Barbier, Le devoir politique des catholiques à l’heure présente (Paris: Jouve, 1910), 316-18; Émile Poulat, Histoire, dogme et critique dans la crise moderniste (Paris: Casterman, 1962); Pierre Colin, L’audace et le soupçon. La crise du modernisme dans le catholicisme français 1893-1914 (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1997). On modernist feminism, see Roberta Fossati, Elite femminili e nuovi modelli religiosi nell’Italia tra Otto e Novecento (Urbino: QuattroVenti, 1997).
  • [25]
    Archives nationales (National Archives, AN), F7 878, “Action libérale populaire”, P[réfecture de] P[olice], extract of a report from 28 July 1911; this is confirmed by AACF, H567, letter from Henri Bazire, les Sablesd’Olonne, 11 March 1914 to Mlle Frossard: “I hesitate to write to you this shameful letter, but Flornoy encouraged me, and I have already experienced your benevolence too frequently not to be straightforward with you. I have heard that the League maybe could help me with my publicity in Vannes.” The unfortunate candidate obtained help from the League, AAL, 1913 “Report on the reasons that led to differences of opinion in the central council: Candidate funding in 1910 via press subsidies”. And in 1914: “Reduction in subsidies, but a donation of 500 francs to Bazire via two newspapers in Vendée”. The members of the League also financed the ALP candidates Gailhard-Bancel et Denais in 1911 (AACF, H566).
  • [26]
    Archives of the State of Rome, CNDI foundation, folder n.1. Claudia Frattini, Il primo congresso delle donne italiane (Naples: Biblink, 2009).
  • [27]
    Lucetta Scaraffia and Anna Maria Isastia, Donne ottimiste. Femminismo e associazioni borghesi nell’Ottocento et Novecento (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2002).
  • [28]
    Translator’s note: not a cloistered nun, but still an ordained member of the Catholic religious order created by and named after Saint Dominic.
  • [29]
    Cecilia Dau Novelli, Società, Chiesa e associazionismo femminile. L’Unione fra le donne cattoliche d’Italia (1902-1919) (Rome: AVE, 1988); Archive generale ordine praedicatorum (AGOP), XIV 950 GIB 1, “Alcuni punti sulla storia dell’Unione”, manuscript, n.d., 51 pp.
  • [30]
    AGOP, XIV 950 GIB 7, Cristina Giustiniana Bandini, manuscript, Quaderno IV, s.l., n.d., p. 2
  • [31]
    Maurizio Ridolfi, “Partiti elettorali e trasformazioni della politica nell’Italia unita”, in Pier Luigi Ballini and Maurizio Ridolfi (eds), Storia delle campagne elettorali in Italia (Milan: Mondadori, 2002), 65-88.
  • [32]
    AGOP XIV 950 GIB 103, “Viaggi della presidente”. All the local committees’ travel details are kept in this folder.
  • [33]
    Yves Déloye, Les voix de Dieu. Pour une autre histoire du suffrage electoral: le clergé catholique français et le vote 19e-20e siècle (Paris: Fayard, 2006), 205-16; Bruno Dumons, Catholiques en politique, un siècle de Ralliement (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1993), 15.
  • [34]
    In order to be able to vote, Italian citizens needed to pay a fee and be able to prove they knew how to read and write.
  • [35]
    Anne Verjus, Le cens de la famille.
  • [36]
    The taking of the pontifical territory of Rome by Italian troops (the Bersaglieri) in 1870 ushered in a period of tension between Pope Pius IX, a prisoner in his own state, and the Kingdom of Italy, which would not be resolved until the Lateran Treaty in 1929.
  • [37]
    Emma Mana, “Le campagne elettorali in tempi di suffragio ristretto e allargato”, in P. L. Ballini and M. Ridolfi (eds), Storia delle campagne elettorali in Italia (Milan: Mondadori, 2002), 89-136.
  • [38]
    M. Ridolfi, Il circolo vertuoso.
  • [39]
    Fiorenza Taricone, Teoria e prassi dell’associazionismo italiano nel 19 e 20 secolo (Cassino: Università degli studi, 2003); Fiorenza Taricone, L’associazionismo femminile italiano dall’unità al fascismo (Milan: Ed. Unicopli, 1996).
  • [40]
    Michel Offerlé, “Capacités politiques et politisations: faire voter et voter 19e-20e siècles”, Genèses, 68, September 2007, 153-4.
  • [41]
    AGOP XIV 950 GIB 15, Quaderno XIV, Cristina Giustiniani Bandini, manuscript written around 1912, p. 24. We observe this among Catholic men: Action libérale populaire defines itself as “above all a fraternal association where the real and strong ties of solidarity unite each one to all the other members. It is an immense family whose membership stretches across countless individuals, each one of them having the same right to affection and protection as the rest”. In Emmanuel Saillard (ed.), Annuaire de l’Action libérale populaire et de la Ligue patriotique des Françaises 1904-1905. Recueil de renseignements pratiques à l’usage des adhérents, correspondants, délégués et membres des comités (Paris: secrétariats de l’ALP et de la LPDF, 1905), 6.
  • [42]
    Liviana Gazzetta, “Votate all’obbedienza. Parabole esemplari di dirigenti cattoliche”, Genesis, 2006, 79-98.
  • [43]
    R. Fossati, Elites femminili; Paola Gaiotti De Biase, Le origine del movimento cattolico femminile (Brescia: Morcelliana, 2002); a synthesis of related texts has been brought together in Francesco Maria Cecchini (ed.), Il femminismo cristiano. La questione femminile nella prima democrazia cristiana (Rome: Riuniti, 1979). Isabella Pera, “La questione femminile del mondo cattolico nel primo Novecento”, Ricerche di Storia sociale e religiosa, 59, 2001, 67-89.
  • [44]
    L. Gazzetta, “Votate all’ obbedienza”.
  • [45]
    An association of Italian Catholics, the Opera dei Congressi was established in 1874 and met for yearly conferences. At the beginning, these Catholics engaged in fundamentalist politics while faithfully following the non expedit of the pope. Progressively, the principle actors of the association became more open to the social question and liberalism, going so far as to raise the question of women’s suffrage. They were condemned by Pope Pius X in 1904 for their Christian-Democrat views.
  • [46]
    Translator’s note: The eponymous league that supported the journal Action française, a monarchist group in France.
  • [47]
    Magali Della Sudda, “La ligue patriotique des Françaises et la condamnation de l’Action française (1926-1929)” in J. Prévotat (ed.), Pie XI et la France (Rome: 2010), 205-44.
  • [48]
    Anne Cova (ed.), Comparative women’s History, New approaches, Social Science Monographs (Boulder: Columbia University Press, 2006); also a speaker at the “Genre, féminisme et mobilisations collectives” seminar, EHESS/EFiGiES, Paris, ENS, 20 February 2009.
  • [49]
    Charles Turgeon, Le féminisme français (Paris, 1902), 2 vols.
  • [50]
    See the appendices in Cristina Giustiniana Bandini, Quaderno.
  • [51]
    “Discours de Mme Reille”, Écho de la LPDF (November 1905), 240.
  • [52]
    Translator’s note: This refers to those who did not support Alfred Dreyfus, or his supporters (famously including author Émile Zola). Dreyfus had been wrongly accused of treason in a case that raised concerns about the scope and virulence of anti-Semitism in France. The “Dreyfus Affair” can be seen as a flashpoint of increased tensions between secularists who promoted civil equality and those Catholics who held anti-Semitic views.
  • [53]
    “‘Toutes les femmes de France’: female political mobilization and the Ligue antisémitique française, 1899”, UCLA, Center for the Study of Women, Thinking Gender paper, 2009.
  • [54]
    AGOP, XIV 950 GIB 4, “femminismo odierno”.
  • [55]
    Magali Della Sudda, “La nébuleuse conservatrice. Réseaux féminins catholiques et réforme sociale 1900-1914”. Speaker at the “Le genre de la réforme sociale” seminar (Paris: EHESS, 17 February 2009).
  • [56]
    Liviana Gazzetta, “Antifemminismo e antimodernismo: Elena da Persico e la nascita dell’Unione fra le donne, cattoliche d’Italia”, in Anna Maria Calapaj Burlini and Saveria Chemotti (eds), Donne in-fedeli. Testi, modelli, interpretazioni della religiosità femminile (Padova: Il poligrafo, 2005), 217-38.
  • [57]
    For example, the Primrose League that was close to the Tories in the United Kingdom primarily included women in its ranks: see Philippe Vervaecke, “La politique sans le parti. La Primrose League et la culture politique britannique, 1883-1919”, Politix, 81(1), 2008, 81-104. This league served as a model for the LPDF.
  • [58]
    AGOP, XIV 950 GIB 1, “Alcuni punti sulla storia dell’Unione”, p. 18.
  • [59]
    Cristina Giustiniani Bandini (1869-1954) came from the Roman aristocracy and possessed significant cultural capital. Her unfavorable position in an institution characterized by gender hierarchy worked in her favor this context.
  • [60]
    Translator’s note: A Catholic and political group in France that espoused Republican values.
  • [61]
    ASV, Affari ecclesiastici straordinari (AES), Francia, 666 PO, Elezioni politiche 1928 – “Circa il cambiamento du denominazione dell’Action liberale populaire de sig Piou”, n 1449/28, Letter from the apostolic nunciature of France, Luigi Maglione, to His Eminence Cardinal Gasparri, Segretario di Stato d. Sua Santità, Paris, 11 June 1928.
  • [62]
    AACF, H509, letter from the Viscomtesse de Vélard to Madame Terrasson de Senevas, 3 July 1910.
  • [63]
  • [64]
    AGOP, XIV, 950 GIB 84, correspondence with Sabina Parravicino, regional delegate for Lombardy and founder of the committee of Milan.
  • [65]
    On the connection between feminism and modernism, see Alessandro Cavallanti, Modernismo e modernisti (Brescia: Tip. Ven. A Lugazzo, 1907), chapter 9 “Il femminismo”, 178ff.
  • [66]
    Ornella Confessore, L’Americanismo cattolico in Italia (Rome: Studium, 1984), 29.
  • [67]
    Sandor Agócs, “Christian Democracy and social modernism in Italy during the papacy of Pius X”, Church History, 42(1), 1973, 73-88 (74-6).
  • [68]
    Sn, UDCI, n 1, “Per la sincerità e la chiarezza”, p. 1.
  • [69]
    AGOP XIV 950 GIB 4 femminismo odierno.
  • [70]
    Paolina Carloni, “Dove vogliamo arrivare?”, UDCI, 24, 1912, p. 2.
  • [71]
    After the electoral reform of 1918 and the acceptance of suffrage by Pope Benedict XV, the new president of the UDCI, Maddalena Patrizzi, followed in the footsteps of the pope and actively promoted the female vote.
  • [72]
    AGOP XIV 950 GIB 40 Circolari, handwritten notebook.
  • [73]
    The statutory autonomy of the women’s union had been bitterly fought for and defended by the president, with the help of Pius X, against the desire of Giuseppe Toniolo to bring together Catholic men and women in the committees of the Popular Union.
  • [74]
    ASV, Seg. di Stato, 1910, rubr. 12, fasc. 9, UFCI, sopplemento mensille all’ACF, October 1910, p. 3.
  • [75]
    AN F7 12 878, “Action Libérale populaire”, “Projet de constitution libérale et documents présentés aux comités de l’ALP par la section d’études sociales 1907”. Further research on the political projects of this men’s group and how it developed remains yet to be carried out.
  • [76]
    Charles Tilly, “Les origines du répertoire d’action collective contemporaine en France et en Grande Bretagne”, Vingtième Siècle: Revue d’histoire, 4(4), 1984, 89-108. For a critical reading and an evaluation of the usages of this idea, see Michel Offerlé, “Retour critique sur les répertoires de l’action collective (18e-20e siècles), Politix, 81(1), 2008, 181-202.
  • [77]
    “On proteste”, Écho de la LPDF, 28 April 1905.
  • [78]
    Translator’s note: The term “Apache”, literally the word for the American Indian tribe found mainly in the American southwest, was used in France to refer to criminals involved in street gangs that were prominent at the time of the LPDF.
  • [79]
    Baronne René Reille, Écho de la LPDF, 1903; Danielle Tartakowsky, “Place de la Concorde, de 1880 à nos jours. La construction sociale de l’espace politique”, French Historical Review, 27(1), 2004, 145-74. The choice of the Place de la Concorde was not made by chance: in 1895, Abbé Garnier organized his first demonstration there in the name of defending church congregations.
  • [80]
    The ALP is akin to the “elite-based parties” within Maurice Duverger’s typology.
  • [81]
    Mlle de Montcuit, “Compte rendu de la manifestation du 11 février 1903”, Écho de la LPDF, 2 February 1903, 23.
  • [82]
    Nathalie Dompnier, “Voter avant le droit de vote”, Paper delivered during the Triangle/Grispo Conference, “Existe-t-il un vote féminin?” Organized by Anne Verjus and Renaud Payre, Lyon, ENS-LSH, 27 June 2008.
  • [83]
    Serge Noiret, “Le campagne elettorali dell’Italia liberale, dai comitati ai partiti politici”, in Pier Luigi Ballini (ed.), Idee di rappresentenza e sistemi elettorali in Italia tra Ottocento e Novecento (Venice: Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, 1997).
  • [84]
    Marthe de Vélard, Vingt-cinq ans d’action catholique, Faire face (1902-1927) (Paris: LPDF, 1927), 18-19.
  • [85]
    On the role of wives in political careers, see Éric Phélippeau, L’Invention de l’homme politique moderne. Mackau, l’Orne et la République (Paris: Belin, 2002).
  • [86]
    “Mon voyage à Rennes”, Écho de la LPDF, 18, 2e année, June 1904, 382.
  • [87]
    “Réunion du Comité central 30 juin 1904”, Écho de la LPDF, 20, 2e année, August 1904, 421.
  • [88]
    “Discours de la baronne Reille”, Écho de la LPDF, 21, September 1904, 441.
  • [89]
    “Rapport de la Baronne de Boury”, Press meeting, Congrès de la LPDF à Lourdes et Tarbes, 1906 (Paris: Diéval, 1906): 93-4.
  • [90]
    Emmanuel Saillard (ed.), Annuaire de l’Action libérale populaire et de la Ligue patriotique; Louis Laya, La révision des listes électorales, législation et jurisprudence (Lille: Imprimerie Typographique et lithographique, 1907).
  • [91]
    AN F7 12 771, “Élections 1902”, report from Marseille, 20 January 1902, from the Special Commissariat: “The women’s election propaganda concerning the political question got around: it was everywhere in the salons, the theatre, the church, even in the confessional; these women from Marseille’s high society are busying themselves with the next legislative elections. The members of the committees created under the patronage of ‘Action libérale’ and ‘[la ligue de] la Patrie française’ are making house-to-house calls, making a special effort to speak to various suppliers, dressmakers, milliners, etc. A large number of women presented themselves to the Association for the Defense of Civil Rights at 5 Grignan Street, which is responsible as we know for overseeing the creation of the electoral list, and on the surveillance of polling stations during elections as well. These women came to verify the registration of their husbands or sons, or to register their relations, their domestic workers or their tenants. Many of the latter had never dreamed of registering to vote.”
  • [92]
    “Rapport de Mlle de Beaulieu du Comité de Nantes”, in Press meeting, Congrès de la LPDF, 99.
  • [93]
    Mlle de Forcade, “Rapport de Mlle de Forcade”, 125.
  • [94]
    Philippe Vervaecke, “La politique sans le parti”.
  • [95]
    Translator’s note: The “Sacred union”: a political truce in France during the First World War in which the left-wing agreed not to oppose the government or to call any strike.
  • [96]
    AGOP, XIV 950 G.I.B. 4, Cristina Giustiniani Bandini, “Azione cattolica e femminismo odierno”, 25.


Through a comparative study of two Catholic associations, the Ligue patriotique des Françaises (French Women’s Patriotic League, LPDF) and the Unione fra le donne cattoliche d’Italia (Union of Catholic Women of Italy, UDCI), this article sheds some light on the role of gender and the Church in the politicization process. Working alongside Roman Catholic politicians, the women in the LPDF established a conservative feminine repertoire of collective action and participated, albeit indirectly, in electoral politics. The Italian political and religious context, in contrast, did not allow any such scope for Catholic women to get involved in politics. This article aims to gain some new insight into the various ways conservative women did politics before their eventual enfranchisement.

Magali Della Sudda
A Marie Curie Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, Magali Della Sudda currently teaches at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. In 2007, she defended her thesis on the strategies of women’s conservative political activism before suffrage, publication forthcoming. She edited (with Frédérique Matonti and Lucie Bargel) the “(En)quétes de genre” special issue of Soctétés et représentations, 24 (2007) and recently published an article drawing on her research into the informal politics of the Vatican and communism in France titled “La suppression de l’hebdomadaire dominicain Sept. Immixtion du Vatican dans les affaires françaises (1936-1937)?”, published in Vingtième siècle, 104 (2009), 29-44. Her main research interests concern politicization and gender in a comparative perspective. She is currently researching how Catholic activist movements were put to the test by fascism in Italy, thanks to the recently opened Pius XI archives in the Vatican Secret Archives. Contact information: EUI, History and Civilization Department, Villa Schifanoia – Via Boccaccio 121, 1-50133 Firenze, Italy.
Translated from French by 
Jennifer Fredette
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