The Italian Almanac

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Miriam Mafai

Miriam Mafai

Distinguished former Communist journalist, writer and liberal intellectual Miriam Mafai died aged 86. The Florence-born Mafai was a former WWII Resistance fighter who suffered under Benito Mussolini's racial laws because her mother was a Jew. She later became an official in the Italian Communist Party (PCI), the biggest Communist group in Western Europe and a major player in postwar Italian society.

She worked for PCI organ l'Unita' and another leftwing newspaper, Paese Sera, before helping found La Repubblica, Italy's leading progressive daily, in the mid-1970s. She was looked up to by generations of leftwing women as a proto-feminist and gained a wide audience among both sexes as a waspish, libertarian critic of conservative policies.

From 1983 to 1986 she was head of the Italian journalists' union FNSI and became an MP for the more moderate heirs to the PCI, most recently as a member of the national executive of the Democratic Party (PD), Italy's main centre-left party. PD leader Pier Luigi Bersani said Mafai was "one of the protagonists of our time". Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno, a political opponent, said Mafai's death was "a painful loss for the whole city of Rome and all its citizens, regardless of their political leanings".