Department or Program

Italian Studies

Additional Department or Program (if any)


Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

David Ward

Additional Advisor(s)

Ana Catarina Teixeira (MIT)


This work analyzes the official political discourse and gender ideology of Mussolini’s fascist regime in Italy and Salazar’s right-wing dictatorship in Portugal. The first two chapters are dedicated to a closer examination of how the two political leaders viewed woman’s role in Italian and Portuguese society, respectively, what reasons they gave to justify their stance on gender (un)equality and how the general public responded to the gender politics the two regimes embraced. While Mussolini’s and Salazar’s dictatorships were both on the right end of the political spectrum and shared nationalistic characteristics, in my analysis, I aim to draw the reader’s attention to the differences that set the two dictators apart. The third chapter is a literary exploration of the work of two female authors: the Italian Alba de Céspedes and the Portuguese Maria Archer. Both were important literary figures in their countries during the respective dictatorial regimes, and both represented in their work outlooks on women’s social roles that did not match the vision imposed by the political regimes. Alba de Céspedes and Maria Archer exposed facets of Italian and Portuguese women’s daily lives that questioned the all-encompassing nature of the subaltern role that the regimes sought to circumscribe women into. By working closely with de Céspedes’ novel Nessuno torna indietro and Maria Archer’s short story “Mulher por conta” I examine the aspects of the female condition in Italy and Portugal that the two writers exposed but that Mussolini’s and Salazar’s official discourses did not openly address.