chapter  4
'Going to the People': the Massaie Rurali section of the Fasci Femminili
Pages 23

In late 1934, only 18 months after its foundation, the FNFMR was transferred wholesale into the PNF itself, becoming a special section of the Fasci Femminili. The provincial and local sections were dissolved and the Provincial Secretaries instructed to report directly to their local Fascia Femminile for orders. In this new context the organization grew rapidly and by the fall of fascism its membership numbered nearly three million. The take-over may have been facilitated by the fact that Terruzzi was temporarily out of the way, having set off in September 1934 to visit her sick sister in Brazil, a trip which involved a lengthy sea voyage. 1

Her connection with the organization did not completely vanish at this point. By the end of 1934 she was back in Nice. After receiving the news that she could return to Italy as her son had succeeded in getting his job transferred there, she wrote to Mussolini that 'once again, I will devote ali the energy I have at my age (72) to the Massaie Rurali'.2 She was not, however, allowed to fulfil this promise. Although she continued to be Honorary President during 1935, she never regained any real power in the organization she had created. This did not prevent her from attempting to interfere. She wrote, for example, to Mussolini in February 1936 to request that the Massaie Rurali be represented in the Corporative structure.3 Had she been around at the time of the actual transfer it seems certain that Terruzzi would have opposed it and attempted to exploit her political connections to prevent it. Her attitude seems clear from a message she left for Mussolini's private secretary in July 1935, asking him to arrange an audience with the Duce, as she wished to discuss a number ofquestions with him. One of these was the idea that: 'The Massaie would like to be part of the unions'. The memo about her message mentions that this was far from the first time that she had raised the matter. 4

The new organization's regulations appeared to suggest that Terruzzi was worrying needlessly for, on paper, the new section differed little from its predecessor. Article two declared its aims to be essentially those of the FNFMR, namely:

a) to promote educational propaganda for massaie rurali from the

countryside and from rural towns and villages, and to place particular emphasis on moral, social and technical assistance;

b) to promote professional training for massaie rurali, to enable them to carry out the tasks entrusted to them competently and with a modern approach, with reference, in particular, to growing vegetables, raising farmyard animals, handicrafts and small household industries, creating for this purpose domestic science and childcare courses;

c) to improve the furnishings and standards of hygiene in rural homes;

d) to make them appreciate all the advantages of life on the land, as a means of opposing the harmful trend towards urbanization. 5

As this makes clear, technical training was to continue, although now the words 'with a modern approach' were added, reflecting a greater emphasis on 'rational farming' (see Chapter 6). The last clause also made the 'ruralizing' aspect slightly more explicit, but overall the aims were little changed except for the removal of the clause about 'forging social links between massaie' and its replacement with the clause on the care of the home. Continuity can also be seen in the fact that some of the FNFMR provincial leaders were, in practice, also Fasci Femminili leaders. They simply continued in the same role as initially the FF Provincial Fiduciaries ran the new Massaie sections. This was the case, for example, of Countess Vendramina Marcello Brandolini of Venice, Mercedes Raselli Bolasco (Treviso), Baroness Teresita Mensinger (Perugia) and Laura Marani Argnani (Reggio Emilia).6