by Sabrina Montosi
Title: Perugia Undergroud, stories of sex, women and power in Perugia, during the Twentieth Century
Author: Andrea Maori
Publisher: Francesco Tozzuolo Editore
Year of Printing: 2018
Features: 108 pages, photos cm 21 x 15, paperback illustrated black and white
In his latest book, Andrea Maori – archivist and researcher from Perugia – leads us to discover three stories, in which women are the main characters. Three events that go through the last century and which, thanks to an accurate documentation and specific researches, bear witness to the condition of subordination of women and of their denied individual freedom.
The first story, Bell’Epoque in Perugia: “Illicit relationships” in the women’s prison house is set in 1909, in Perugia, inside the reformatory and the women’s prison of the city, in which at that time, happened violence and abuses on prisoners. These violences came to light thanks to two brave women, Zita Centa Tartarini and Maria Rygier, who brought the issue to the attention of the public.
In the second one: At the margins of history: Cecilia Aurora and Agostina between prostitution and anti-fascism the author Andrea Maori followed their lives of marginalization through few traces found in the archives. Two women, Cecilia Aurora Tavernelli from Città di Castello and Agostina Tortaioli from Perugia, recorded as anti-fascist prostitutes forced to move from one city to another until we lose their traces. From that point on, it is possible to find their faint presence only through police files.
In the third one: Public morality from the approval of the Merlin Law to the seventies. The case of Perugia the author analyzes with punctual numbers and data, the phenomenon of prostitution before and after the the Merlin law, which would have given dignity to women and avoided exploitation situations. In addition, Maori examines the constitution of the female police whose purpose was to safeguard public morality and to monitor the press by repressing that which was considered immoral.
«The book brings to light three local stories that inevitably are linked to the national italian context of that time. In every one of them, the central topic is the subalternity among social classes and, above all, the male domination on the female sexuality», as professor Paolo Bartoli underlines in the preface.
Remarkable is the striking image on the cover, which reproduces the work that the Spanish artist Daniel Munoz created in 2012 on the outer wall of the former Perugia women’s prison. The mural (acrylic on cement) entitled Abandoned Women of the Perugia Prison was destroyed in 2017 during the restoration works of the building. «The idea of the mural» explains the artist «was to create a symbolic representation of the submission of women through history. I chose this topic because the building was the prison of women».