The nurse in the mirror: Image of the female nurse during the Italian fascist period

The nurse in the mirror: Image of the female nurse during the Italian fascist period

Abstract and Figures


To describe the image of the female Licensed Nurse in Italy as promoted by the Fascist party from 1939-1943 and to understand how gender stereotypes influenced the construction of this image.


Mixed methods design.


The study started in 2016 and ended in 2019. In the qualitative phase, the primary source was analysis, following Chabod's historical method (2012), while the quantitative phase involved statistical analysis of textual data.

Data sources

All data came from the only nursing category magazine of the time: 'L'Infermiera Italiana' (The Italian Nurse), published from 1939-1943.


From 112 articles analysed, the gradual elevation of the nurse emerged, including the partial replacement of 'old' nurses with Graduate Nurses. The analysis shows the maturation in structure, differentiation and specification, together with the birth of a new professional image. The accepted image of the nurse was now a woman of high moral character with religious ideals, but less known for her technical skills, an exception being the Visiting Health Assistant who functioned at a high level in the society.


The study shows an articulated, congruent and cohesive set of dimensions through which to review history and to understand the dynamics underlying the structuring of the nurse's professional image.


A better understanding of the dynamics behind the development of the professional image will guide present and future actions on gender stereotypes and their negative effects on the safety and quality of nursing care. International synergies and alliances are required.


 fascism; gender; historical research; image; licensed nurse; stereotypes.

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