Thursday, March 08, 2018


In Italy International Women's Day is widely celebrated and its symbol is the mimosa flower, because it is plentiful at this time of year. Mimosa bouquets are sold in the street, sprigs appear with your coffee in bars and pasticcerie make mimosa-themed cakes like these:

Almost exactly five years after the loss of the woman whose idea the mimosa symbol was, I thought I should repost what I wrote on the day of her death, 12th March 2013. Teresa Mattei has always been, and remains, one of my heroines:

Born in Genova in 1921, Teresa Mattei graduated in Philosophy from the University of Florence and became an antifascist campaigner. During the Second World War she was known as Partigiana Chicchi.  In 1946 she became the youngest woman member of the Assemblea Costituente, the parliamentary chamber charged with drawing up Italy's Constitution, a document which she defended throughout her life.

It was Teresa Mattei who had the idea of making the mimosa blossom the symbol of International Women's Day [8th March] for the simple reason that the flowers are in season in early March and can be obtained at little or no cost. 

Of the potential of women in politics she said,

"Women, in contrast to men, seek knowledge, cooperation and solidarity. They are the bearers of new life. They do not see society as being divided into classes but as a multitude of men and women with the same problems. Women can bring this new spirit into politics, but we have to create the structures that can allow this to happen."

Referring to the Second Prodi Government and its six women ministers, of whom only two had portfolios, she went on to say,

"These poor women can have no influence, because a minister without portfolio is unable to do what a minister with portfolio can, that is, to use a budget to put a plan into action. This is a very serious situation."

I think that first sentence is a metaphor for women's powerlessness all over the world.

Teresa Mattei died in Lari [Province of Pisa] today (12.3.13) at the age of 92.  I'm glad she saw this 8th March and, as she is laid to rest, the mimosa blooms for her all over Italy.

You are not forgotten, Teresita!

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