Giuseppina Martinuzzi

illustration: Tea Jurišić / Fierce Women, detail

14.2.1844 – 25.11.1925

Love for the homeland is subordinated in my heart to love for the oppressed and suffering of all nations.

Giuseppina Martinuzzi, Istrian socialist, pedagogue, poet and women’s and workers’ rights advocate, was born in 1844 into a prominent family that came to Labin in the early 18th century from the Italian province of Friuli. Lydia Sklevicky was among the first to draw attention to her life and work in her essay “Giuseppina Martinuzzi’s Three Revolutions” (1987), in which she addresses Giuseppina’s multiple transgressions – national, class and gender.

As a child, she was taught by her father, a Labin official of progressive attitudes; then she attended a private school; and in 1873 she began working as a teacher. In her 32 years of working with children of workers and peasants in schools from Galižana to Trieste, she became a favorite “teacher of the poor” and advocated for the availability of education to the masses. She collaborated with many pedagogical journals and participated in the compilation of textbooks. Particularly interesting is her Manuale Mnemonico (1886), a manual for students containing tables for improving memory.

Due to her political leanings, during the Austrian rule her works were often censored (e.g. her literary magazine Pro Patria was banned). At the beginning of the 20th century, at the age of 56, she abandoned her irridentist views and converted to socialism. She is considered by some as one of the first women socialists in the world. 

In her most famous work, the socially engaged poem Ingiustizia (Injustice), she addressed the difficult lives of workers and peasants. She gave numerous public speeches advocating for the rights of children, workers and women, and she also advocated for the cooperation of the Croatian and Italian people in Istria. She expressed support for the miners’ strike of the Labin Republic in 1921. In the same year, at the time of the strengthening of Italian fascism, she joined the Communist Party of Italy and led the women’s section of the Party in Trieste. With her political and theoretical work, writes researcher Andreja Gregorina, Giuseppina showed that the fight against fascism necessarily entails the fight against capitalism.

Towards the end of her life, weakened by illness, she returned to her native Labin and spent her days arranging the family archive and library, which she donated to the City of Labin. She died at the age of 81, surrounded by books and a few friends. Her tombstone in the city cemetery consists of a large torch made of Istrian stone erected by Labin miners.

Labin National Museum, Prvog svibnja 6, Labin

The National Museum in Labin, located in the Baroque Battiala-Lazzarini palace in the old town, has dedicated a part of its permanent display on the second floor to Giuseppina Martinuzzi. At the invitation of the WHW curatorial collective, artist Božena Končić Badurina intervened into the museum's permanent exhibition in 2018 by showcasing about forty books from Giuseppina's private library, which had been kept in the depot until then. In the Alley of the Greats in the San Marco Promenade, there are six bronze busts on stone pedestals depicting anti-fascists and workers' rights activists who were either born or worked in Labin. The only woman among them is Giuseppina Martinuzzi (author of the bust: Mate Čvrljak, 1971). In the Rialto area (corner of Kalić / Paolo Sfeci streets) is Giuseppina's ancestral home marked with a memorial plaque. In Pula, since 1978, one of the primary schools bears her name, as well as streets in Pula, Rovinj and Umag.