Molly Tambor

‘Madonna Tempesta’: Teresa Noce and the Law for Working Mothers.

The paper takes as its subject a veteran of the Communist Party, a Resistance heroine, and an infamously argumentative loudmouth whose contemporaries called her what translates roughly as “Our Lady of the Hellstorm.” Teresa Noce never thought of herself as a politician for women only, but she spent much of her career championing laws to improve women’s treatment and opportunities, particularly in the workplace. Though her own experience of motherhood was difficult and marked by tragedy, she never separated the role of mother from that of worker in her definition of women’s lives and contributions to society. The paper examines the passage of her eponymous law (the legge Noce, passed in 1950 during the first legislature of 1948-1953), which guaranteed maternity leave and employer-provided daycare for working mothers. Given Teresa Noce’s famously contrary persona and her strident refusals of “women’s work” and women’s organizations, it is somewhat of a contradiction that she should dedicate her first parliamentary battle to maternity leave. But in the context of the postwar, with Italy’s precarious position both politically and materially, there were many good reasons to address the question of women’s entry into full citizenship through the discourses of motherhood. Despite the stereotype of the Italian mamma as a sentimental, self-sacrificing, and perhaps smothering figure, especially in her relationship with sons, the effects and uses of the maternal image are complex and sometimes contradictory; in this case, I argue, the image of the mother helped the public to accept women’s new more visible roles as worker and citizen as a source of confidence and optimism in this period of moral anxiety. Finally, although this law remains extremely progressive and actually exceeds the EU requirements for parental leave, it has remained largely unenforced and its promises of equality largely unfulfilled; a further contradiction in the complex workings of gender and citizenship in Italy.