historical platform of feminism as a collective movement reside in the first
half of the nineteenth century, but its starting point was the end of the
eighteenth century. It was through progressive and active women that a
theoretical formulation was joined to a political organization which made it
possible to actively oppose law and opinion. These women are the foremothers of
the modern women’s movement that advocated for the dignity, intelligence, and
human existence of women. In the late nineteenth century movements towards equal
rights amongst women started to be become plainly recognizable and self-conscious
and thus it progressed into a series of movements throughout Europe. Focusing
mainly on suffrage, the women’s movement began to form it initial presence in
society during the chaotic years of the French Revolution.

a concept that originated in France as well as finding it’s voice during the
French Revolution July 14, 1789 – November 9, 1799, was no stranger of the
French people. Since the Middle Ages, French women and men had voiced arguments
for legal and political equality among the sexes. The eighteenth century
desultory debate over the educational, economic, and domesticated status of women
slowly started to grow more intense with in the early years of the Revolution.
The objectifying regulations tabbed on women during the decades of the ancien regime – Middle Ages until 1792
— left women, without choice, full dependence on their husbands and if not
married, then she must remain the property of her father. Law and custom
confined women to domestic service, heavy labor, and ill-paid labor-intensive
industries.  It was the notions presented
during this time of conflict between a struggle for equality and live against an
authoritarian presence that foreshadowed the principles of equality and the
opposition of oppression that was present in Europe in the late nineteenth and
early twentieth century. 

 These ideas were opposed during this time by
conservative authoritarianism that was present during the French Revolution. Throughout
the revolution the masses experienced a great deal of hardship, however, this
presented the first opening to arbitrate in the political sphere and reshape the
class system of the hierarchical society in which they existed. The tie between
fascism and the French Revolution involved a reorientation of European politics
that was adopted first by modern European nationalism rooted in the bias
concept of Rousseau’s general will, that only when men act together as an
assembled people can the individual be a citizen.1 The general will became a
secular religion under the Jacobin dictatorship – the people worshipping
themselves – while the political leadership sought to guide and formalize this
worship.2 The roots of fascism are
seen in the Jacobin Club, first formed as an militant section of the
revolutionary bourgeoisie but later dominated by Maximillien Robespierre who
embodied the most radical response to the revolutionary crisis; to defeat the
forces of reaction, they found themselves compelled to take radical measures. Through
the looking glass of the Jacobin dictatorship, the rays of fascism found comfort
in the creation of a new man, under the aesthetic of politics, a new age of
politicization would function. For the first time “the people” became a
disciplined mass movement during the years of the Revolution, participating in
the drama of politicsLK1 . 

time change at the beginning of the twentieth century the principles of male
worship manifested in nationalism, later giving rise to fascism, was still
oppressing the principles of feminism that wished to pursue egalitarian ethicsLK2 .  The arrival of the twentieth century brought
along strong nationalism as well as the beginning of women’s movements and much
of the modern liberal world. It was also during this time that fascism
inherently excluded women despite direct demands for participation in feminism
in its entirety. The spectrum of feminists ranging from radical conservatism demonstrated
by the Nazi women who exemplified their natural identity in serving the nation to
liberal feminists proclaiming that the full emancipation and participation of
women in society is vital for not only maximizing society but also preventing
war and fascism. Multiple writings and actions demonstrated by women post-World
War I and throughout the years of World War II confirm that fascism is not only
misogynistic and ungrateful to the aid of enthusiastic women who were desperate
to be a part of their fascist regime in ways more than only producing future
soldiers but also that feminism and fascism are mutually exclusive.  

inherent opposition between feminism and fascism is extremely evident in the
philosophy and doctrine of each – fascism’s evidence lies in the lack of
doctrine as well. Virginia Woolf’s Three
Guineas written in 1938 should be internalized by it’s historical context
regarding the rise of women’s rights, fascism, and Woolf’s intellectual
engagement at the time. The unfamiliarity and fragility of women’s rights was
present because just a little more than a hundred years prior to Woolf’s Three Guineas in 1832 Parliament passed
the Great Reform Act, which expanded the electoral system for all men to vote,
making women still unable to vote. As the women’s suffrage movement continued
at a slow pace, in 1918 women over the age of thirty who had a higher education
degree and who were householders or married to householders were granted
eligibility to vote. Only in 1928 did Britain grant universal suffrage to all
people over the age of twenty-one. The new emergence of female equality in
England during this time framed Woolf’s work as a significant both in terms of
feminist thought, but also in terms of the rapidly changing world.

cornerstone of Woolf’s writings as well as this paper is that fascism is
inextricably tied to the patriarchy. In her novel—essay Three Guineas, Woolf argues that a male-centric society inherently
leads to the action of war, associating the destruction of households and the
loss of life as the saddening result of war. Woolf makes it perfectly clear
that it is not only male aggression but also the incentive to only educate,
critique, and perfect the male identity through higher education opportunities,
stable professions, and admiration from political and social organizations. Due
to the anxious notion that men may lose status in their professions with the
integration of women into the workforce, men become “possessive, jealous of any
infringement of their rights, and highly combative if anyone dares dispute
them.” 3  Woolf argues, “are we not right then in
thinking that if we enter the same professions we shall acquire the same
qualities? And do not such qualities lead to war?”4 Compliment John Mill’s The Subjection of Women 1869LK3 , and his argument revolving around the
idea that men have oppressed women into not participating in social or
political activities because men prevent them to. Mill suggests that whether
women can perform certain activities will be dependent on reality. Mill
proposes that women should be an integrated into more traditionally male roles
because it will also have a positive outcome for men, making it a
male-utilitarian society. The seizure of power by fascism uses femininity as a
leverage, bringing back the sentimental moments of the first world war, when
mothers of men were killed, and mother’s sons were martyred. Adolf Hitler
confirms this claim that fascism uses femininity as a tool of leverage when he
said, “in politics, it is necessary to have the support of women, because the
men will follow spontaneously.” 5

women as an inferior aid to male progress is typical of fascist behavior and is
especially relevant to Nazism. Hitler himself was quoted speaking on the
grounds of women’s position in the Third Reich saying, “I detest women who
dabble in politics. And if their dabbling extends to military matters, it
becomes utterly unendurable.”6 Hitler expands his
position on women’s roles by saying, “Everything that entails combat is
exclusively men’s business. There are so many other fields in which one must
rely upon women Organizing a house, for example.”7 In 1933 a group of Nazi
women had a gathered a collection of letters Deutsche Frauen an Adolf Hitler (German Women to Adolf Hitler) to
convince Hitler that the Third Reich would not only benefit from, but needed
German women in positions of power.

seizure of power on Jan. 30, 1933 brought an anticipation of an end to the
bewilderment that many Germans felt during the Weimar Republic. The people
looked to Hitler as he promised a renewal of German values, but also a National
Socialist revolution that would clear Germany of the bourgeois ways.  Unfortunately, most Germans failed to see the
potential confusion and radicalism in Hitler’s contradictory rhetoric. The
early days of the Third Reich’s rule left many women with the hopeful thought
that the promising new regime would be open to the involvement of women in
political and social positions, regardless of class. The open letters published
to Hitler, German Women to Adolf Hitler, emphasize
the significance of female participation in Nazi Germany. The introduction of
which, written by Irmgard Reichenau, states “Our love for Germany gives us the
right and makes it our duty to say below a few things that German women have to
say to the German man.”8 The use of the word “duty”9 implies the essential need
for women to be involved with the operation of the Third Reich. More
specifically, the opening of the first letter states “A Volksgmeinschaft…of
Germanic blood cannot in the long run be led and controlled by only men.”10 The foundation of this
initial argument is in the prehistory of Germany. The letter continues with the
matriarchal prehistory, asserting that the development of society requires
equality so that “the three generations now living are directed by the will of
the creator to the third stage: to the social order of the two-unified, the
total human being.”11 Prehistoric women of
Germany were said to be equal to men, holding the same rights as them regarding
marriage and property. Hitler later officially falsified that assumption of
prehistoric German women in a speech to the National Socialist Women’s League
on September 8, 1934 by saying “in really good times of German life the German
woman had no need to emancipate herself. She possessed exactly what nature had necessarily
given her to administer and preserve; just as the man in his good times had no
need to fear that he would be ousted from his position in relation to the
woman.”12 The letters make a clear
position for women who are ready to become actively involved with the Third
Reich. Yet, another contradiction to Woolf’s Three Guineas where organization is another form of male oppression
and Hitler’s these women back in time. The authors of the open letters directed
to Hitler are no stranger to the atrocities committed by the Weimar Republic
and furthermore, the patriarchy. In attempt to abolish the association of the
women’s movement with the Weimar Republic from Nazi angst the authors of the
letters mark the patriarchy as the origin of all that National Socialism
rejects. Reichenau provides an argument rejecting the patriarchal state by
saying all the phenomena surrounding the “ultimate causes of the world crisis”13 is only secondary but
“primary, however, is the decadence of sheer male domination which produced all
of these phenomena!”14 The phenomena being all
things that the Nazis despised; democracy, Jewry, and liberalism.

irony of Nazi women who continued to fight for equality – politically and
socially –  is the complete and utter
blindness to devotion that prevented them from clearly seeing that all forms of
fascism inherently are shaped by sexist values. These values intend to keep
women in the home and produce children as a duty to their nation. In Woolf’s Three Guineas she makes it clear that a
male-centric society inherently leads to the action of war. The Nazi women
agree with the feminist criticism portrayed through Woolf’s novel-essay on the
grounds that the patriarchy is the root of all reviled by Nazi officials, but
the dichotomy occurs in the action of organization amongst the women supporting
the Nazi regime. The Nazi women wished to join the action and organization that
the Third Reich had to offer for exclusively men which fundamentally
contradicts Woolf’s imperative that women should not “bind herself to take no
share in patriotic demonstrations; to assent to no form of national
self-praise; to absent herself from military displays, tournaments, tattoos,
prize-givings and all such ceremonies as encourage the desire to impose ‘our’
civilization or ‘our’ dominion upon other people.”15 An example of fascist
oppression even more flagrant of than that shown in Nazi Germany was the policies
towards women in Mussolini’s Italy.

key divergence between the experiences German and Italian women was their statuses
in their respective societies. Italian women under the Kingdom of Italy
(1861-1925) were not permitted to vote but women did work and were active and participating
in society. In the midst of World War I Italian women, as women elsewhere, were
expected to get suffrage. In Italy socialist trade unions, leagues, and labor
organizations had a grand amount of support by women who comprised a large
portion of the total industrial labor force, leaving women with a tripartite share
of the nation’s total employment population. However, policy disbanding women
was crucial to fascism along with the inherent illogicalities that were
embedded into the regime, which was constantly torn between the call of
modernity and the course of reinstating traditional authority. Fascism by
nature destroys democratic functions that allow all peoples to participate in
society. Most notably for women, their restriction from employment that was
once permitted presented a major reversal in their identity and struggle for an
equal social status.

in fascist ideology it is an imperative that men and women remain different by
nature; fascist government, Victoria De Grazia claims in her book How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy 1922-1945, “politicized
this different to the advantage of males and made it a cornerstone of an
especially repressive, comprehensive new system for defining female citizenship,
for governing women’s sexuality wage labor and social participation”16 Fascism’s ultimate perception
of the female roles was dualistic and inconsistent: as only bearing children
for the nation women were to manifest traditional values; as nationalist
citizens, they were to be aggressive and public. The inconsistency of the
regime’s policy was at its peak when it was directed towards working-class
women. Fascism wanted to peruse the exclusion of women in the labor force and
station them back into the households. Mussolini dangled the unachievable
carrot of employment in front of women while the stick of childbearing for the
nation made sure to discourage any viable female employment. Doing so by,
occupying the time of women with producing soldiers to the Fatherland of Italy.
This naturally disheartened employers from hiring women which inherently forced
working-class women back into the households. It was the policy of Italy’s
regime to keep women out of the work-force and inherently out of politics. This
is the nature of all fascist regimes.

in Woolf’s Three Guineas she recalls that
“we can hardly deny that there have been women who have influenced politics.”17 Woolf refers to influential
women within the English monarchy whose “famous houses and the parties that met
in them play so large a part in the political memoirs of the time that we can
hardly deny that English politics, even perhaps English wars, would have been
different had those houses and those parties never existed”18 The role of being a hostess
is not a new one for the politically active women in Europe during World War
II. Gerturd Scholtz-Klink played an active role as the head Nazi Women’s League
and as the Reich’s Women’s Fuhrein, a title appointed to her by Adolf Hitler. Scholtz-Klink
consistently promoted German male superiority and the importance of
child-bearing. In a speech Scholtz-Klink addressed to German women that: “the
deepest calling we women have is: motherhood,”19 continuing to say that “motherhood
was often robbed of its deepest meaning.”20 Scholtz-Kilnk hosted all
of the qualifications of being the ideal Nazi women due to her mission to
exclude women from politics, her loyalty to the Reich, and her preservation of
a patriarchal society. Klink speaks to the “nature” of men and women in her writing To Be German Is to Be Strong and that though “equal bearers of
Germany’s future” men and women should “accomplish the tasks that are appropriate
to his or her nature.”21 The nature of a women’s
task is that of women’s work which Klink says is a women’s “deepest calling” –
being a mother. Klink discusses the period between 1918 and 1933 that was “the
bad fourteen years” that “motherhood was often robbed of its deepest meaning
and reduced to something superficial, something that was even held in contempt.”22 Klink continues to paint
motherhood as the “deepest affirmation of the women and of life”23 and by doing so she
repositions the negativity of limited mobility in society for women to the
creators of the society. She therefore establishes the task of women in Germany
“to make the calling to motherhood the way through which the German woman will see
her calling to be mother of the nation.”24

fascism entrusts absolute authority in a single leader, who controls the nation
in it’s entirety with a hierarchy of accredited powers. Robert Paxton states in
his The Anatomy of Fascism that “the history of the fascist regimes we have
known has been filled with conflict and tension.”  One of these tensions is consistently the
fight between women’s participation or subordination in cooperation with the
fascist regime. Unfortunately for women and all minority groups the phenomena
of a fascist regime typically dominant within a social group that holds strong
racial, ethnic, or religious values. Fascist leaders promoted jarring
nationalism based upon social myths, and provoked irrational sexist stratification
and racial hatred that led to organized oppression by a nation. Fascism
constantly proposes false promises to the peoples that they plan to oppress –
the lower-class, Jews, women, and any minority group the central social group
of the regime differs from. Faced with the presence of vigorous attempts and
pleas to participate in an equal manner from Nazi women, the Nazi regime spat
on the requests and subordinated the role of women to the household. Hitler
idolized the likes of Gertrud Scholtz-Klink who was representative of women
willing and able to provide the fascist nation with offspring and contribute
nothing else further. These events, sentiments, and actions contradict Virginia
Woolf’s calls for female intervention for the end of war. Woolf suggests women
should have no false loyalties to regimes that have had no loyalty to them.
Woolf states that to be free from unreal loyalties one “must rid yourself of
pride and nationality in the first place; also of religious pride, college
pride, school pride, family pride, sex pride and those unreal loyalties that spring
from them.”25
It has been made evident, not only in the Nazi regime, but also in the Italian
regime, that women will stand no chance of equal participation in a fascist
system. Italian women, who were on the cusp of suffrage and participation prior
to Mussolini’s Italy were placed in the role of child bearer, consistent with
the operations of every fascistic regime. It is clear that fascist regimes oppress
and restrict the role of women; however, it is an important factor that
egalitarian feminist thought and structure would inherently disband any fascist
ideology or reality. Fascist ideology, as broadly put in Mussolini’s Doctrine of Fascism, “is a historical
conception, in which man is what he is only in so far as he works within the
spiritual process where he finds himself, in the family or social group, in the
nation and in the history in which all nations collaborate…Outside history man
is nothing.”26
Mussolini makes clear the position that fascism is a male construct, both made
by the man, and for the man, concerned with only the man and his violent wishes
of expansion and obsessive need to be immortalized as is made clear by “outside
of history man is nothing.”27 However, what is the
women outside of history? Mussolini talks poorly of what he calls the opposite
of “a manifestation of energy…staying at home…a sign of decadence.”28

fascism ever intended to grant women a proper, respectable place in society the
act of “staying at home” would not be drawn in such a negative light and as
something so abhorrent for a man to do. If women were to have a concrete role
in society, resembling the same level of worth and prestige as that of a man,
the man would be forced to share the limelight of history with women; a concept
unimaginable to supporters of fascism. However, for women to take part in the
actions and organizations that oppressed them in the first place would be a
breach of another of Woolf’s warnings to women: “that if we enter the same professions we shall acquire the same
qualities? And do not such qualities lead to war?”29 In
this Woolf urges women to not fall into the same patterns of oppression that
have oppressed them, however she is not suggesting inaction. Woolf calls for “any
woman who enters any profession shall in no way hinder any other human being…but
shall do all in her power to help them.”30 This sentiment cannot be
found anywhere in any fascist thought or publication. It is this thought of
equality that makes egalitarian feminism mutually exclusive to fascism.

1 Mosse,
George L. “Fascism and the French Revolution.” Journal of
Contemporary History 24, no. 1 (1989): pg. 6.



Three Guineas, page 66.


Ibid., 66.


Macciocchi, Maria-Antonietta. “Female Sexuality in Fascist Ideology.”
Feminist Review, no. 1 (1979): pg. 69.


Hitler, Adolf, Norman Cameron, R. H. Stevens, and H. R. Trevor-Roper. Hitler’s
table talk, 1941-1944: his private conversations. New York City: Enigma Books,
2000. Pg. 251.


Ibid., 252.

8 Johnson,
Richard L. “Nazi Feminists: A Contradiction in Terms.” Frontiers: A
Journal of Women Studies 1, no. 3 (1976): 55-62. doi:10.2307/3346169. Pg. 56.


Ibid., 56.


Ibid., 57.







Johnson, Richard L. “Nazi Feminists: A
Contradiction in Terms.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 1, no. 3
(1976): 55-62. doi:10.2307/3346169. Pg. 57.


Ibid., 58. 


Woolf, Virginia, and Naomi Black. Three Guineas. Oxford: Published for the
Shakespeare Head Press by Blackwell Publishers, 2001.


De Grazia, Victoria. How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy, 1922-1945. Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1992. Pg. 7.

17 Woolf,
Virginia, and Naomi Black. Three Guineas. Oxford: Published for the Shakespeare
Head Press by Blackwell Publishers, 2001.















Woolf, Three Guineas.

26 Mussolini,
Benito, and Jane Soames. The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism. London:
Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press, 1933.






Woolf, Three Guineas

30 Ibid.

about fascism and then how it moved into hitler and other fascist leaders in

back to finish whole intro.

back and see what mill was about.


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