For my B.A. I explored second-wave women’s movement in Genoa deconstructing the stereotyped image that emphasises only the agency of radical separatist collectives of young bourgeois women. Indeed, I focused also on the participation in the movement of other women who often decided to adopt a gendered perspective while remaining within mixed organisations such as the trade unions and left-wing political groups. It was through these investigations that I first encountered the so-called “trade union feminism”, whose experience I decided to elucidate with my award-winning M.A. thesis. This work, focusing on Reggio Emilia, was devoted to the local “Coordinamento Donne” (trade union female structure) and particularly to its organisation of workshops for working-women.
With my PhD project I decided to further investigate 1970s trade union feminism, which had proved to be a very fertile terrain for the understanding of shifting dynamics in terms of class and gender relationships. However, I decidedly chose to broaden my perspective by establishing a comparison between Italy and France. When second wave feminism flourished in Western countries, women unionists engaged with it, challenging the traditional union politics, criticising its non-neutral but rather deeply gendered nature, and elaborating on a whole range of labour matters from a feminist alternative perspective. I chose to compare Italy and France because of their well-known similarities with regard both to the feminist movement (much focused on the idea of ‘difference’ between the sexes) and to the labour movement (a strong communist trade union, together with a progressive Catholic one). At the same time, the different features that characterised women unionists’ commitment in the two countries constituted an open path to meaningful reflections on the relation between trade unions, civil society, and feminist movement with reference to different national contexts and political traditions. I adopted a basically trans-local approach focusing on some cities in particular. In both countries women unionists set up female separatist structures (Coordinamenti Donne in Italy, Commissions-Femmes in France) and engaged in an intense analysis about the binomial women/work. With my research I interrogated the gender relationship characterizing the trade unions and their traditional interpretation of the categories of class struggle. Through in-depth interviews, I have been able to uncover a counter-narrative of trade union commitment in the 1970s, which strongly marked a decade of vibrant social struggle and female agency.