Can you support women’s liberation without being a feminist? Do all religious people have to obey the rules of a religious institution? Is there any freedom under fascism? The work of Leda Rafanelli raises, and suggests a few possible answers to, these questions.
Leda Rafanelli (1880-1971) was an Italian writer, editor, publisher, and activist who paid the bills through fortune-telling in her later life. An outspoken anarchist, she conformed to neither radical nor customary conventions in her perspectives on sexuality and spirituality, among other eccentricities.
Some of Leda’s work has been translated into English and published in I Belong Only to Myself: the Life and Writings of Leda Rafanelli. The purpose of this website is to continue Leda Rafanelli’s inquiry into what it means to be free and what it means to be powerful, and whether freedom and power exist outside of social institutions.
Raised in a liberal middle-class Tuscan household, Leda Rafanelli traveled to Egypt in 1900, where she converted to both Islam and anarchism within the three months she spent there. Upon her return to Italy, she became a well-known member of several radical circles. Influencing political debate at a time when Italian women were excluded from public affairs, she co-founded several publishing houses, edited various journals and magazines, and wrote prolifically. Her publishing credits include fifteen novels, forty-nine short stories, hundreds of articles, essays, poems, and other creative works.
Leda Rafanelli does not fit into the categories we conveniently use to classify people by their beliefs. She actively battled against patriarchy, yet she denounced feminism. A faithful Muslim her entire adult life, she nevertheless criticized all religious institutions. Read a little bit more about what she had to say on these subjects here.
When Leda Rafanelli died, she left behind almost 80 years of written work, a testament to her perpetual intellectual and spiritual inquiry. Her legacy of questioning everything – power dynamics, social institutions, religious authority, cultural values – provides inspiration for us as we carve our own paths through an ever-shifting social reality.
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