Iotti, Leonilde

(1920–1999)
   The first woman ever to become president of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, “Nilde” Iotti was born in Reggio Emilia (Emilia-Romagna). She became a communist activist while in her teens, and in 1946 she was one of the very few women elected to the Constituent Assembly. After the war, she was elected to the Central Committee of the Partito Comunista Italiano/ Italian Communist Party (PCI) and to its direzione, or inner cabinet, and played an important role in making party policy, especially on women’s issues. Iotti was in fact even closer to the heart of the PCI’s leadership than these institutional posts suggest: She was the companion of Palmiro Togliatti, the party leader, until his death in 1964. In Parliament, she was especially active in the struggle to obtain a divorce law during the late 1960s and then to defend the law from a referendum challenge in 1974.
   Iotti became deputy president of the Chamber in 1972, and in 1979 replaced another communist, Pietro Ingrao, as the Chamber’s president. She held the post until 1992. In 1987, during a lengthy and confused government crisis, Iotti was briefly given an exploratory mandate by President Francesco Cossiga to form a new government. Although her attempts failed, it was the first time that a member of the PCI had been entrusted with this task. Iotti died in Rome in December 1999.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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