Anna Kuliscioff

Russian feminist revolutionary (1857–1925)

Anna Kuliscioff (Italian: [ˈanna kuliʃˈʃɔf]; Russian: Анна Кулишёва, IPA: [ˈanːə kʊlʲɪˈʂovə]; born Anna Moiseyevna Rozenshtein, Анна Моисеевна Розенштейн; 9 January 1857 – 27 December 1925) was a Russian-born Italian revolutionary, a prominent feminist, an anarchist influenced by Mikhail Bakunin, and eventually a Marxist socialist militant. She was mainly active in Italy, where she was one of the first women to graduate in medicine.

Anna Kuliscioff in 1908

Quotes edit

"While Brother Kills Brother" (1914) edit

Editorial in La difesa delle lavoratrici, September 20, 1914. Translation into English by Sylvia Notini included in 'Lines of Fire: Women Writers of World War I' edited by Margaret R. Higonnet (1999)

  • Another fifteen days have gone by; in this life of uncertainty and anxiety our very soul seems suspended. Our struggles in the field of labor are in a lull, weakened by the crisis that hampers us in affirming any rights. Our educational work seems ironic, now that the war has so deeply disillusioned us about our strengths. Yet we must go on living and waiting; the best we can do is to keep alive in our hearts the ideal flame of faith that seems to blow out under the rush of the storm. Meanwhile let us follow the events of the terrible war: we cannot count the dead, hundreds of thousands if not already a million. The fate that seemed to smile at German audacity now turns against its very arrogance. Like the soul of the common people, we see here a sanction imposed by the justice inherent in things.
  • It is true that what has pushed public opinion increasingly against the Germans are excesses committed against the rules of international law that had been established as preventive measures to make war (as it were) less barbaric. But why would we want to punish the authors of such horrors by spreading further carnage? Do we not have a similar burden on our consciences? Who does not recall the ears of Arabs brought back from Libya as souvenirs by our soldiers?
  • The judgment of the civil world will issue a sentence much more useful in its moral effects than punishment inflicted with weapons at our own risk and danger. Thus we must oppose these false enthusiasms, in whatever quarter they arise.
  • We women, who feel most responsible for the broken lives and calamities of war, and who therefore are by nature and by logic the most averse to war and least responsive to the lures of patriotism and combat, we are the most vigilant. If in the modest milieux where we live, our modest word can be of any value, let us employ it to dampen false enthusiasms, to recall to reality those who pursue reckless illusions. We, first among all, defend our party against the accusation of cowardice leveled against it. Let those who want to show their courage keep it for other, more sacred and fruitful battles!

The Monopoly of Man (1894) edit

Translated from the Italian by Lorenzo Chiesa (2021). Original title: Il monopolio dell'uomo: conferenza tenuta nel circolo filologico milanese

  • With few exceptions, every man of any social class, owing to an infinity of unflattering reasons for a sex that passes as strong, considers the privilege of his sex as a natural phenomenon and defends it with astonishing tenacity, calling on God, the Church, science, ethics, and existing laws, which are merely the legal sanction of the prevarication of a dominant class and sex. And it is for this reason that, in spite of the intimate connections between these various problems, it seemed to me that I could isolate that of the social condition of woman from all other morbid phenomena of the social organism, mostly generated by that terrible tragedy of life, the struggle for existence.
  • All the dispossessed and pariahs of society are on the move; they beg for some light, air, and a life that accords with human dignity. It is therefore only natural that, in our century, a serious and vast movement has emerged among the last and most numerous of pariahs who form half of humanity-that is, women.
  • However, with the evolution of modern civilization, the element of physical strength was increasingly eliminated from social activities, industrial production, and even agriculture, so that women of the social classes who earn a living through labor gradually found themselves in a situation more or less the same as that of men. And it is especially in our century that, owing to the laws of political economy-which we will not here take into consideration-and by collaborating directly in the production of social wealth, woman could become aware of her equivalence with man.
  • I have chosen the question of woman's labor because I think it is the kernel of the whole woman question, as I firmly believe in the following great and fundamental truth of modern ethics, which is valid for both man and woman: labor alone, of whatever nature, divided and remunerated with equity, is the actual source of the enhancement of the human species.
  • Nowadays, everybody complains about the decadent character of great and minor men alike. Let woman's character and personality evolve, and you will see woman, the real mother, will raise not cream puffs but real men!
  • It therefore seems to me that only when labor is equitably remunerated, or at least remunerated like man's, will woman take the first and most important step forward, since it is only by becoming economically independent that she will withdraw from moral parasitism and conquer her freedom, dignity, and the actual respect of the other sex. I believe it is only at that point that women will have the moral strength needed not to put up with the pressures of fathers, husbands, and brothers, and will themselves be able to create, among their sex, that powerful weapon of modern social struggles, namely, association, in order to acquire civil and political rights-which are now denied to them, as they are to men interdicted for imbecility, madness, or delinquency. The existing laws inflict this atrocious humiliation on woman, because not only men but also women themselves consider woman as an eternal minor, and she will be able to come of age only when she will be sufficient unto herself through her own intelligence, skills, and moral strengths.
  • It is true that man's fear of competition plays a great role in this, which is dissimulated through social ethics arguments, based mostly on religious biases and habit. But by far most influential is the unconscious fear of having one day to renounce, out of love or necessity, the authority and arrogance of his sex, which has been embedded in man since prehistorical times—and I concede that abdicating power is always a difficult and painful thing.
  • For the triumph of the cause of my sex, I hope only that men will be slightly less intolerant and women slightly more supportive of each other. Perhaps, at that point, the prophecy of the greatest poet of our century, Victor Hugo, will be realized: he predicted of woman what William Ewart Gladstone predicted of the factory worker-that the nineteenth century would be the "Century of the Woman."
  • Character never joins forces with servility. And, indeed, men and women-especially the latter-who have an independent character are often regarded as rebellious, unsettled and troubled people, a danger to society.

Quotes about Anna Kuliscioff edit

  • "In Milan there is only one man, who is actually a woman," wrote Antonio Labriola in an 1893 letter to Friedrich Engels, reporting on the "state of the art" of Italian socialism. The woman was Anna Kuliscioff, one of the founding members of the Socialist Party of Italian Workers, whose cosmopolitan militancy in Russia, Switzerland, France, Great Britain, and Italy at the turn of the twentieth century actively contributed to the flourishing of the Socialist International and, above all, to the construction and "deprovincialization" of Italian socialism...The delicate and relentless task of combining-without reconciling-the distinct and at times divergent instances of women's emancipation and class struggle that Kuliscioff first developed in this speech remained through all her writings the hallmark of her much underappreciated socialist feminism.
    • Jamila M. H. Mascat, "Portrait of a Socialist Lady" in The Monopoly of Man English translation (2021)

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