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Fascist Italy was a totalitarian state, though not to the extent of Hitler’s

Germany or Stalin’s Russia. It was led by Benito Mussolini. Population was a big
issue then, and fascism was a big part of life as well. Both can be seen to have
affected various parts of Italian society. Italy was a one party state, was radical on
gender roles/issues of the time, Fascists took and kept power with popular support,
and Italy was weak economically. Fascism and the population policy were large
pieces of the Italian puzzle.

Italy was a one party state in that only one party was actually legal. There
were Italians such as Gaetano Salvemini who disapproved of Fascism, but they were
forced to live outside of Italy and thus minimally affected the going ons therein (4).
These other parties that were forced to live outside Italy had a different view on the
population problem, which may have been one of the reasons why they were
banished/outlawed or why their feelings were so strong (4). Salvemini went so far
as to say that thin women, who bore fewer children than fat women, would be put
before a firing squad by Mussolini! This one party government can also be seen in a
decree by the Italian parliament (1). The decree required a lot money seeing as
each pregnant woman was to be protected and assisted with nursing for children
under 5 by the state. In addition, clinics for these women’s care were to be
provided. These clinics however, may have been created less for a desire to
actually care for the women as to make sure that the children would be born in
good condition, thereby benefitting Italy. This decree would probably not have
been passed if a conservative party had existed in Italy. The conservatives
probably would not have approved the funds needed to carry out this decree.

Italy was rather radical when it came to the issue of gender and women doing
things other than reproducing. Mussolini himself believed that a woman having to
work made her husband feel ashamed, that she “castrated” him (5). While
examining this view, one must keep in mind that Mussolini wanted to increase the
birthrate, so he might have said this in his speech in order to sway men into
thinking they were ashamed of themselves. This way the women would have
stayed home and had more kids. To some extent, it may have worked. Mussolini’s
daughter remarked in her memoirs that she was frustrated because, only two years
after having her first child, she was pregnant again (7). Mussolini’s daughter was
also angry that she was being forced to leave China, which she found to be a
wonderful place to live, and more back to Italy. She may have been angry, and
might have expressed said anger in regards to being pregnant again so soon. Italy’s
radicalness in regards to women’s place in society can also be seen in a book by
Paolo Orano (8). In this book, Orano expressed his belief that women are the cause
of Italy’s declining birth rate. He thought that a woman who “renounced the idea of
becoming a good mother” was akin to “female insubordination”. Paolo was a
journalist though, so while he mnay have been expressing his genuine opinion, he
may also have been trying to gain Mussolini’s favor. This same radical view can
also be seen in a fascist party magazine which talked about a law code that made
the selling of contraceptives illegal in 1930 (9). This magazine praised the code
because it helped increase the birth rate. This is probably a good example of the
opinion of many fascist on the banning of contraceptives. They followed Mussolini,
who wanted to raise the birth rate, so they would have wanted the same, and the
banning of contraceptives would have helped the population increase.

The fascist arty, though radical in regards to women in society, came and
kept power with popular support . In 1921 the fascist party had 35 seats in the
parliament, and even before that people had been calling Mussolini “El Duce”,
which means “the leader”. They continued to call him this at least until 1936, which
was still nine years before Mussolini was executed (6). Mussolini, the father fascist
essentially, came to power with the support of disillusioned soldiers and eventually
other groups as well. The soldiers had fought in WWI, as had Mussolini. They along
with people at home turned to something new and different, just as Germany did,
because they felt they had gotten the short end of the stick at the treaty of
Versailles. That phrase “the short end of the stick” is actually an old Roman saying,
and thus would be a fit description of Mussolini’s view of the time given that he
wanted to restore Italy to the glory it had had under the Roman Empire. Also, The
fascist’s idea that women should be kept to domestic duties and increasing Italy’s
population was not an unpopular one, otherwise they would have lost power fairly
quickly. This opinion can be seen an article from a fascist magazine for women (6).
The magazine praises Mussolini for his intent of creating a holiday to honor women.
This would have made the women feel a lot better about life, that holiday was being
created in honor of them, even though they may have felt a little inferior seeing as
while in other parts of Europe women were gaining more rights, such as suffrage,
while Italian women were still being restricted to domestic life. Support can also be
seen for Mussolini in an article from a poor women with 11 children to Mussolini’s
daughter, Eda Mussolini (10). The women would not have appealed to the ruling
person’s daughter for aid if she did not think the women would listen. Under a
parliamentary decree Italian children were protected if they were mentally or
physically impaired or if they were delinquent or had been abandoned up until the
child turned 18 (1). However, one shouldn’t trust the source too much as it does
not say how old the women’s children are.

Italy may also have been affected by their population policy economically.
They had the lowest wage rates in Europe during Mussolini’s time, and that’s saying
something seeing as after 1929 Europe’s economy suffered a huge depression.
Mussolini tried to open up jobs for men by condemning women in the workplace and
promoting population increase, but this may have had the opposite effect (5). With
two providers, a family will earn a greater income and will have more money. With
only one provider and many more children however, the family will be worse off
seeing as less money will be earned in order to care for more people. This may be
seen in the case of a woman who wrote a letter to Eda Mussolini, daughter of Benito
Mussolini. The women had 11 children and asked from aid from the government
(10). The women may not have needed aid if she had entered the work force and
had fewer children. Also, when the vast number of children produced in Italy grew
up and entered the work force, the labor supply increased while the amount of jobs
stayed the same or, due to depression and lots of businesses being forced to close,
decreased. This would’ve lowered wages and decreased the living standards of the
Italian people.