- Michael Shiels McNamee
- BBC News
On April 7, 1926, an Irish woman broke away from a crowd in Rome and shot one of the most infamous de facto rulers of the 20th century.
A bullet grazed Benito Mussolini’s nose, and the Italian leader survived the assassination attempt.
This was one of many acts of individual bravery against fascism in Europe in the 20th century, but Violet Gibson, who carried it out, has been forgotten by history.
Of the four people who tried to assassinate Il Duce, she was the one who was closest.
Now, almost a century later, the process to place a plaque in his honor in the Irish capital, Dublin, is accelerating.
The attack took place during a speech by Mussolini, when he had been in power for three years.
Gibson the fired three shots before the gun jammed. She was then attacked by Mussolini supporters and was saved by police intervention and was arrested.
After a time in an Italian prison, she was deported to England, which is suspected may have happened to avoid the embarrassment of a public trial in Italy.
She was subsequently held at St Andrew’s Hospital, an asylum in Northampton, until her death in 1956.
In the days after the assassination attempt, the Chairman of the Irish Free State Executive Council, WT Cosgrave, wrote to Mussolini to congratulate him on surviving.
Gibson’s story is made a little more incredible by the circumstances of his birth.
Daughter of the Anglo-Irish aristocrat Baron Ashbourne, Lord Chancellor of Ireland (the highest legal office in the country at the time), Gibson was a debutante at the court of Queen Victoria.
Dublin City Council has already passed a motion for initial approval to place a plaque dedicated to her in the city.
The motion declares that the “committed anti-fascist” must be brought into “the eyes of the public and given its rightful place in the history of Irish women and in the rich history of the Irish nation and its people. “
“It was in the interest of both the British authorities and her family to be seen as ‘crazy’ rather than as a politician,” the motion added.
“For his bravery he suffered atrociously”
Independent Dublin City Councilor Mannix Flynn, who introduced the motion, said Violet Gibson “for some strange reason, has been completely ignored by the Irish ruling class, and indeed, by the British ruling class.”
“Like most people, and particularly women, who have done extraordinary things, they are always relegated to the background,” she told the BBC.
“If you look at World War I or World War II, the women were there with the men.”
“On rare occasions we have brought to light a strange case to give it the credit it deserves, but that is something rare.”
“For some strange reasons, Violet Gibson became kind of embarrassed, they rejected her, they tried to say I was crazy to hide the shame“.
Flynn indicated that the Gibson family supported the plaque and hoped the proposal would advance to the next committee stage in the coming weeks.
He said that while it would depend on obtaining permission from the owner of the building, a likely location for the plaque would be his childhood home in Dublin’s Merrion Square area.
Cartas a Churchill
In 2014, the Gibson story reached a wider audience with a radio documentary broadcast on Ireland’s national radio, RTÉ, made by Siobhán Lynam, and based on the book “The Woman Who Shot Mussolini” by Francis Stoner-Saunders.
The documentary later served as the basis for the film “Violet Gibson, the Irishwoman Who Shot Mussolini,” which was directed by Lynam’s husband, Barrie Dowdall, and is currently screened at international film festivals.
“People made pilgrimages to try to kill Mussolini and one woman, a 50-year-old woman, shot him point-blank,” Lynam said.
Dowdall indicated that “something key” in the story was a series of letters he wrote requesting his release from St Andrew Hospital to powerful figures in society, including Princess Elizabeth, the current queen, and Winston Churchill, with whom he possibly spent time. when the prime minister was in Ireland as a child.
Lynam and Dowdall were able to view the letters in Northampton, where they remained undelivered to their addressees.
“She was released [de Italia] with the condition of they will lock her up for the rest of her life “, explica Lynam.
As part of their investigation, the husband and wife team examined archival materials in Italy and note that the largest collection of information that has been gathered on all the people who attempted to assassinate Mussolini is that of Gibson.
“If this had been carried out by a man, there would probably be a statue or something erected. Because she was a woman, they locked her up. We are excited to be able to tell her story and publish it, “said Dowdall.
He noted that the plaque was a good thing, as it recognizes Gibson and will help bring his story to a wider audience.
“Violet Gibson was very brave for having done what she did, and between her and Benito Mussolini, and all the things that he did, who was the one that was really crazy?”
Who was Benito Mussolini?
Mussolini’s National Fascist Party came to power in Italy after World War I, backed by the Voluntary Militia for National Security, armed groups known as the black shirts, who intimidated their opponents.
The fascists seized power in the early 1920s, dismantling democratic institutions, and Mussolini became the dictator of Italy in 1925.
He supported General Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War and backed Adolf Hitler in World War II.
Mussolini adopted some of the Fhürer’s policies, notably the anti-Jewish laws of 1938 that stripped the Jews of Italy of their civil rights. More than 7,500 Italian Jews died in the Holocaust.
Mussolini was executed after his capture by Italian partisans in 1945, while trying to flee the Allied advance.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.