Nilde Iotti, a resistance fighter during the Second World War, Leonilde ‘Nilde’ Iotti became a prominent figure in the Italian Communist party (PCI), fighting for women’s rights. Committed to the idea of a fair and equal Europe, Iotti was determined to bring her fight for universal suffrage to the European stage.
"We must make the times of work, the schedules of the cities, the rhythm of life more human. We must bring the daily experience of life into politics, the little things of existence, forcing everyone – politicians, ministers, economists, local administrators – to finally come to terms with the concrete life of women." – Nilde Iotti
Once WWII was over, Nilde Iotti became a leading organiser of the PCI-dominated Union of Italian Women. With women gaining full suffrage in 1945, Iotti enjoyed considerable support among female voters and was elected in 1946 to the Constituent Assembly, where she was responsible for drafting the section on family policy in the new Republican constitution. She fought hard for women’s rights throughout her political career, supporting and successfully campaigning for the introduction of divorce and abortion laws in Italy, which were high priorities for the women’s movement. Iotti became a member of the European Parliament in 1969. Her priority as an MEP was to bring about open elections to the European Parliament in which European citizens would directly elect their representatives. Iotti believed this would give the Parliament an unshakeable mandate and the credibility to act on behalf of the people.
Iotti and her colleagues’ work was rewarded in 1979 when the first direct elections to the European Parliament were held. She ended her 10-year association with the Parliament soon after, a decade in which she also served on the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs committee. In 1997 she was elected vice-president of the Council of Europe, the human rights organisation that includes 47 member states.