3 January 2021
Rossi, Catharine. “Furniture, Feminism and the Feminine: Women Designers in Post-War Italy, 1945 to 1970.” Journal of Design History, vol. 22, no. 3, 2009, pp. 243–257.
This article provides a close look at the professional, cultural, educational, religious and other barriers to success that women designers faced in post-World War II Italy. Although female architects are an important part of this story, female furniture designers are the main subject of the article. (Particular attention is paid to the designers Gae Aulenti, Cini Boeri and Anna Castelli-Ferrieri, all three successful in many disciplines beyond furniture.) Sexism, we learn, prevailed in many aspects of Italian life and industry, not only within design studios but also within schools, homes, professional associations and the advertising world. Additionally, the dynamic of sexism stemming from certain women designers towards other women in the same field is discussed. Large portions of the article are devoted to three main topics: explaining the unique aspects of Italian cultural life that created such a hostile environment, the imbalance of reward and recognition within husband/wife design teams, and the blatant misogyny of several successful furniture advertising campaigns. Although there are some references to specific design objects created by women - for example, Boeri’s successful Strips sofa design - this article is focused on the working environment surrounding the women, not the design objects themselves.
How does this relate to scenography?
This article is not specifically about theatrical design, but it does shed light on sexual discrimination within design fields. It raises awareness and increases sensitivity to important issues that are relevant to all designers. Additionally, it provides a fascinating history and evaluation of the work of several important female designers whose work has not yet been fully appreciated.