Money, Banks and Finance in Economic Thought

Harriet Lathrop Dunham – Etta de Viti de Marco (1864-1939)

Mosca Manuela, University of Salento (Lecce)
Laurenzi Elena, University of Salento (Lecce)

The life story of Harriet Lathrop Dunham, known in Italy as Etta de Viti de Marco, has never been written. The daughter of a wealthy New York banker/businessman, in 1895 in Italy she married the economist and radical member of parliament Antonio de Viti de Marco. The couple had an intense social life between Rome, Puglia and the Tuscan Appennines, also spending time in London and New York. Their three children were born between 1896 and 1900. Their salon was frequented by poets, writers, ministers, and ambassadors, especially from the Anglo-Saxon world. Among others, Etta was close to Beatrice and Sidney Webb, the pedagogist Maria Montessori, the famous actress Eleonora Duse, and the modernist theologist Paul Sabatier. Social commitment and philanthropy were central to Etta’s life. She was among the promoters and leading activists of the “Italian Women’s Industries”, cooperatives that combined the cultural aim of endowing women’s craft skill with artistic dignity, the economic goal of giving it industrial solidity, the social goal of removing female workers from the exploitation of middlemen, and the political goal of using work to promote women’s citizenship. A firm believer in female emancipation, in 1906 she was one of the signatories of the petition to parliament for women’s suffrage and in 1908 she gave a speech at the First Congress of the National Council of Italian Women. Interested in Italian and Anglo-Saxon politics, she was also active in her husband’s liberal and free trade battles. In 1914 she was involved in the Italian-British League, in contact with the Cobden Club. During the war she firmly supported intervention, opposing Germany for the victory of democracy over autocracy. She published various articles: in Aid and Welfare (1908) she dealt with the problem of the poor and weak. In 1915 she wrote in defence of Edith Cavell, the English nurse condemned to death in Germany. She produced two important political analyses, both in “Giornale degli Economisti”: International rivalry in China (1898) and Imperialism, protectionism and free trade in England (1903-04). After the Great War, the advent of fascism (1923) extinguished all hope for the liberal elite. From her correspondence in the 1920s and 1930s with Gaetano Mosca and Luigi Einaudi we know that Etta’s cultural interests were still alive, but the Belle Epoque was definitively over.


Keywords: female emancipation, liberalism, welfare

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