Nilde Iotti

Italy’s ‘Red Queen’

Nilde Iotti, Italy’s leftist lawmaker who died in December at 79, was renowned for her regal manner. Nicknamed “the Red Queen” and “Czarina,” Iotti once described herself as “just a woman who has a difficult job—and tries to do it with tact.”

Iotti fought with the partisan resistance during World War II. As a member of Italy’s Communist Party, she became the first female president of the lower house of parliament in 1979, a post she held until 1982. In an obituary in Milan’s centrist Corriere della Sera, Roberto Zuccolini called Iotti “the lady of the republic, of the democracy, of parliament.”

“There were lots of children and babies [at Iotti’s state funeral], entire families continued to pass beside the casket,” observed Claudia Terracina in Rome’s centrist Il Messaggero. “ ‘Goodbye, Comrade Nilde,’ whispered Stefano, and Sister Gervasia recited a prayer for ‘this dear person who was from Reggio Emilia, as I am.’ ”

“There were 15,000 to 20,000 [people at the funeral]—in silence,” said asomber editorial in Rome’s liberal La Repubblica. “Some raised their fists.” These were “the people,” as Iotti called them, and they had all come to render final homage to the queen.