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For Mothers, Peace and Family: International (Non)-Cooperation among Italian Catholic and Communist Women's Organisations during the Early Cold War



In July 1955, women from around the globe gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland for the World Congress of Mothers organised by the social-communist Women's International Democratic Federation (WIDF). On the third day of four days of proceedings, an Italian housewife named Clotilde Cassigoli delivered an impassioned speech calling on women to unite across the divides of the Cold War, and cooperate to ensure that their children and grandchildren would not have to know the horrors of war she had witnessed in Florence at the end of the Second World War. Her plea ultimately went unheeded. This article analyses the national and international activities of Catholic and communist women's organisations between 1945 and 1956 to expand understandings of women's political involvement during the Cold War. My examination of the Italian case will show that during this era cooperation between the politically opposed women's groups was only possible in a limited framework. By interpreting the associations’ discourse of motherhood and peace through a Cold War lens, I show that the Italian women's leaders were successful at advancing their own objectives and making inroads into the homes of more Italian women while they simultaneously constructed a divisive Cold War international women's movement.