On Mother’s Day, Tre Cime, Tre Eroine

We dedicate this blog to mothers and their children and the many men and women who have worked, and continue to work, to improve their lot (Photo: Ward Stendahl)
We dedicate this blog to mothers and their children and the many men and women who have worked, and continue to work, to improve their lot (Photo: Ward Stendahl)

When deciding what to write for Mother’s Day, I searched our photos of the Dolomites for a good picture of Lynn and me together. The best one was of the two of us in a WWI bunker on the Tre Cime hike.

The iconic Tre Cime, three mammoth peaks, the official symbol of the Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage site. The eponymous hike is probably one of the most travelled in the Dolomites, deservedly, as you can see.

Our photos include many traces of “WW1, the white and vertical war,” which we talked about in a previous blog, Remembering Monte Piana.

Searching about mothers in Italy during WW1, I found an intriguing story.

When WWI was declared, Italians living in enemy European countries were expelled. Repatriated refugees in their ethnic country, many of them were shunned and mistreated. The men were conscripted, the women and children housed in communities of multiple refugee families that bore the name “Colonies.”

To address this humanitarian crisis, six months after Italy entered the war, three women founded The National Committee for Refugee Colonies.

Teresita Pasini, a journalist, suffragist and pacifist, was better known by her pseudonym Alma (Latin for soul) Dolens (Latin for grieving). At one of her lectures, she said, “the enemy is not at the border; it is all around us: it is poverty, tuberculosis, unemployment.”

Sofia Bisi Albini was a philanthropist, columnist and early member of The Consiglio Nazionale delle Donne Italiane, an Italian federation of women’s associations, including those admitting both men and women, founded to improve conditions for women.

Margherita Sarfatti, you may know from the film, “Cradle will Rock.” The mother of three children, in addition to her journalistic commitment to women’s social, political and civil rights, Margherita was the first European art critic. She was a friend of Albert Einstein, Guglielmo Marconi and Franklin Roosevelt, and her writing influenced the US to join the war. However, because she was also Mussolini’s mistress (and biographer), her accomplishments have often been dismissed.

In 1916, Teresita, Sofia and Margherita visited 68 Refugee Colonies, asking mothers what they needed. From these conversations, the trio produced a brief list of urgent needs. Three requests concerned unemployment and inconsistent subsidies, and a fourth need was for special treatment for pregnant women and nursing mothers.

The efforts of these “Tre Eroine” (three heroines) resulted in the government setting up local women’s groups across the country to provide childcare services so women in Refugee Colonies could go to work (also called “Nests for the Children”), as well as institutions to care for children orphaned by the war. As Dan Squizzero writes,

Institutions caring for war orphans also took in children mistakenly separated from their families while refugees passed through the larger cities. Hundreds of cases were documented of children between three and fourteen years old who were lost in the hasty transportation of refugees. In response, aid groups and women’s organizations set up schools, shelters, and placement in foster families for the missing children, many of whom were never reunited with their families.

All that beauty in the Dolomites, juxtaposed by evidence of the horrors of war, I couldn’t help but think of Putin’s war in Ukraine. How is Mother’s Day being celebrated there today?

For “Children who can no longer say Mom,” the Ukrainian organization Children of Heroes offers long-term support to more than 8,000 children—and, sadly, every day, 10-20 more children are brought to them. A donation to them might be the best Mother’s Day gift we could give. Teresita, Sofia and Margherita, the “Tre Eroine,” would agree, don’t you think?


Children of Heroes. 10-20 children per day who have lost one or both parents as a result of Putin’s war are added to long-term support programmes,“Children who can no longer say Mom”. It is tax-deductible.

Faccani, Francesca. “All the lives that Margherita Sarfatti lived in addition to that of Mussolini’s lover.” Vogue Italia, July 11, 2023. “…she meets Roosevelt and his wife, to whom she is introduced as “the most informed woman in Italy. She is the only one who really knows Mussolini’s thoughts. Upon her return, Mussolini distances her from her, the only concession she makes to her, as a Jew, is to give her permission to emigrate when she promulgates the racial laws.  She escapes to Uruguay and then Argentina, where she initially survives by selling the paintings she brought with her, and she spends her days writing poetry. Her sister instead dies in a concentration camp.”

Sofia Bisi Albini, Google Arts & Culture. In her writings, she presented motherhood as the essence of femininity, an added value in a woman’s life. She authored several novels, was a follower of Maria Montessori, and founded children’s newspapers and two successful women’s magazines.

Squizzero Dan. “Searching for a Warm Home: Women and the Italian Refugee Crisis of World War I.” Nursing Clio. November 14, 2018.

Tre Cime Guide Throne and Vine provides the best guide to this hike that we have found.

More Than 700,000 Ukrainian Children Taken To Russia Since Full-Scale War Started, Official Says, July 31, 2023.

4 Responses

  1. Gloria , like always a beautiful story , beautiful words for such an occasion .
    grazie tantissimo .

  2. Beautiful Mt. pictures to highlight the day.
    Cheers to all mothers. 👍👍👍👍👍

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