Most noteworthy Italian exponent of the Fascist dictum that woman's place is in the home is none other than Donna Rachele Mussolini. For more than two decades this 49-year-old onetime waitress has been a strict homebody, has been seldom seen and never heard in public, has mean while presented her lord, Benito Mussolini, with no less than four strapping bambinos.
By contrast Italy's outstanding exception to such Fascist mores can also be found in Il Duce's family. Although Signor Mussolini's favorite and eldest child, Edda, has done her duty to the State by giving birth to two future soldiers and one future housewife, she has not toiled unduly in the kitchen and has not hesitated to enter the male province of international politics.
The power of the famed Soong sisters of China has long been an open book. The influence of Magda Lupescu, mistress of Carol II of Rumania, is openly acknow edged in Rumania. But the role that Edda Ciano, née Mussolini, has played in the momentous recent realignments of European nations, has been half concealed by a regime which refuses to admit women in politics. The Official Life of Benito Mussolini, by Giorgio Pini, a translation of which was recently published in London, allots only three short sentences to Daughter Edda: 1) to report her birth; 2) to tell about her marriage; 3) to describe how happy Donna Rachele was at her marriage. When a complete, unexpurgated account of Mussolini's life is finally written, Daughter Edda may, as one of Europe's most successful intriguers and string-pullers, well de serve chapters instead of sentences.
Last week Edda Ciano's husband, Count Galeazzo Ciano, Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, paid an official visit to Generalissimo Francisco Franco in Spain. The Countess for once did not go along. The Countess' father, Il Duce, was summering in central Italy at Rocca delle Caminate, still keeping the vow of silence he publicly took at Cuneo, in northern Italy, last May. Edda herself was at the island of Capri, across from the Bay of Naples, supervising the building of a villa at her (and the late Emperor Tiberius') favorite recreation spot.
One report had it that an old lung ailment had returned and that inactivity had been prescribed for her. Another report (published in Paris by the weekly Aux Ecoutes) had it that the ambitious Edda had recently overreached herself in a quarrel with Crown Prince Umberto and his wife, the Princess Maria José: usually indulgent, Papa Benito, unwilling to have dynastic troubles on his hands, had set his foot down for onceso ran the storyand had commanded his strong-headed daughter temporarily to take up homely pursuits.
No secret has it been that the gaunt, pale-faced Edda is hopeful that her somewhat mediocre young husband may some day become Il Duce II. A possible obstacle is Prince Umberto, who is accepted, rightly or wrongly, as the spearhead of opposition to Axis policies which Count and Countess Ciano champion.
Of the Mussolini children* Edda is easily the most outstanding in ability, personality, intelligence. This fact tends to support the long-current story that she is not the daughter of Donna Rachele but rather the product of a grande passion of Benito Mussolini with a Russian woman Socialist in the days when he was a powerless, ranting radical.