Archivi storici nel territorio

Wet Nurses. Women, memory and territory

Development project for the historical archives of Acuto, Paliano, Piglio, and Serrone

. The phenomenon


Wet-nursing. A phenomenon strongly connected to these places: Ciociaria was famously a land of wet nurses and, even today, they are kept in close memory. Many of Ciociaria's residents, as a point of pride, remember having at least one wet nurse in the family. The aim of this project, however, though starting from local interest and 'emotions' regarding this figure, was to investigate the historical significance and features of wet-nursing, in order to discover, finally, the social usefulness of the role: that is, how the wet nurse established herself in the wider role of childhood assitance. The idea of a wet nurse portrayed in characteristic clothing with an infant of a noble Roman family is only one aspect of a phenomenon that has a much longer and much more complex history.



. The various aspects


Beyond that, it is clear that this issue has opened up questions and discussions regarding thecondition of women in rural society in the first half of the twentieth century.


What emerged from the archival documents is a depiction of a figure in movement - between city and country (a real internal migration, and a migration of 'gender') and between social classes.


In addition, the aim of the project was focused on the specificity of an exclusively female 'job', between possible economic emancipation and maternal sacrifice.



. Publications and events


The following was published:


a volume of research (titled Wet Nurses. Future. Female)


The following were arranged:


14 exhibits in Ciociaria, with archival material and contributions from private citizens. In this case, the section of personal documents was particularly rich - according to the idea of a 'living archive' which is at the base of all the development projects.


The following were organised:


4 events with experts and scholars from various disciplines, mainly directed at children in elementary schools. 

That is, experts from sociology to anthropology, from literature to cinema - all disciplines to delve deeper into the issue.

In attendance were: Maria Immacolata Macioti (Sociologist, La Sapienza University), Daniela Ceselli(screenwriter of The La balia, a film by Marco Bellocchio screened for students at the school of Acuto),Giovanni De Vita (Sociologist and Antropologist, University of Cassino), Giorgina Scardelletti (Culture, Region of Lazio), Marcello Carlino (literary critic, La Sapienza University) who provided a reading ofPirandellian novella La balia . Some excerpts were performed for the schoolchildren of Piglio by the actor Luca Sperati.



Also, a documentary was made on all initiatives held during the year.



The project was discussed on Rai International, on the programme Italia chiama Italia (31/10/2008), with an interview with the curator, and on the Rai Tre programme, Geo&Geo on 7 October 2010.



The project was also awarded a place on the list of "quality projects" by the cultural portal of the Region of Lazio (



. The contributors


Project by Michele Fianco.

Research by Ilaria Loreti, Daniela Neccia, Antonello Pacella, Maura Posponi.

With collaboration from Chiara Capomaggi, Emilia Casile, Viviana Minori, Annalisa Proietto.

Documentary by Elio Mazzacane.

Mounting of exhibits by the Serrone Cultural Association.



[English version by Rachel Moland]