Anna Kuliscioff

  (Redirected from Anna Kulischov)

Anna Kuliscioff (Italian: [ˈanna kuliʃˈʃɔf]; Russian: Анна Кулишёва, IPA: [ˈanːə kʊlʲɪˈʂovə]; born Anna Moisejevna Rozenštejn, Анна Моисеевна Розенштейн; 9 January 1857 – 27 December 1925) was a Jewish Russian revolutionary, a prominent feminist, an anarchist influenced by Mikhail Bakunin, and eventually a Marxist socialist militant; she was mainly active in Italy, where she was one of the first women graduated in Medicine. A woman with a strong intelligence and obstinacy, that led her to achieve her goals, inspired by the passion for medicine and its ideals.

Anna Kuliscioff
Nunes Vais, Mario (1856-1932) - Anna Kuliscioff a Firenze (1908).jpg
Anna Kuliscioff (1908)
Anna Moisejevna Rozenštejn

(1857-01-09)9 January 1857
Died27 December 1925(1925-12-27) (aged 68)
Spouse(s)Pëtr Makarevič
Partner(s)Andrea Costa
Filippo Turati
ChildrenAndreina Costa


Anna Kuliscioff was born in 1857 near Simferopol, in the Crimea. Her father, Moisei, was one of the five hundred privileged Jewish “merchants of the first guild” who were permitted to reside anywhere in Russia [1].

Persecuted by the Imperial Russian authorities, Kulischov took refuge in Paris, where she met the Italian anarchist Andrea Costa, her future partner. After being expelled from France in 1878, she settled in Italy and became the editor of Critica Sociale, a major socialist paper, in 1891. An activist for causes such as women's suffrage, Anna Kuliscioff was tried and imprisoned on several occasions.

Her first approach to politicsEdit

In 1871, after studying foreign languages with private guides, Anna was shipped off to study engineering at the Zürich Polytechnic, where she additionally took courses in philosophy.[2] Political outcasts, in whom the city flourished, acquainted her with rebel and egalitarian thoughts. Deserting her investigations, in 1873 she got married with Pëtr Makarevič, an individual progressive of honorable birth, and together they went back to Russia. There they worked for progressive groups, first in Odessa and afterward in Kiev. In 1874, Macarevich was condemned to five years of hard work for his revolutionary exercises. He died in jail. In order to avoid arrest. Anna escaped Odessa to live clandestinely, first in Kiev and then in Kharkov, frequently singing in public parks to make money. In Kiev she aligned herself with revolutionaries related with the Land and Freedom party, who engaged in terrorist acts against the tsarist authorities.[1] When her colleagues in this armed group were arrested, she managed to escape. 

Costa, Turati and socialist experiencesEdit

In April 1877, using a false passport, she left Russia and moved to Paris, where she became a member of a small anarchist group which, following Bakunin, preached the abolition of the state. One of the members was an Italian, Andrea Costa, with whom she had a relationship that endured for a very long time. During that period they were continually isolated by detainment and outcast. It was in Paris that Anna was first reported, in police records, as bearing the name Kuliscioff, a created name that distinguished her as coming from the East.

After being expelled from France in 1878, she settled in Italy and became the editor of Critica Sociale, a major socialist paper, in 1891. An activist for causes such as women's suffrage, Anna Kuliscioff was tried and imprisoned on several occasions. Her views on Marxism influenced Filippo Turati, who became her partner. Together, they contributed to the creation of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) as leaders of a reformist wing that came to oppose both Communism (causing the split of the new Italian Communist Party in 1921) and the irredentist attitudes of Benito Mussolini (who subsequently left the PSI). Their group was itself expelled from the PSI later in 1921, leading to the creation of a Unitary Socialist Party (PSU) – led by Turati, Kulischov, and Giacomo Matteotti in opposition to the emerging Fascism.

Sentimentally involved firstly with Andrea Costa and then with Filippo Turati, she “converted” both of them to Marxism and for this reason she was later defined as “the strong woman of the Italian socialism”. In 1947, a journalist of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Carlo Silvestri, made this statement: “the best political brain of Italian socialism was actually the one of the pleasant and proud woman, in front of whom there was no one who, respectful and admired, did not bend over, including Mussolini”.  

Medical careerEdit

As early as 1880 Anna Kuliscioff focused particularly on the conception of the woman whose inferiority was dependent on social and cultural factors.

The beginning of her medical studiesEdit

Because of the lack of a political commitment, she devoted herself with an ever-growing interest to university studies. In 1882 she was forced to move to Switzerland where she enrolled in the faculty of medicine. Medicine satisfied her need to withdraw into an individual dimension and satisfied her aspiration for a social mission that she had profoundly shown since the time of joining populism. Because of the long time spent in prison, she had contracted tuberculosis and milder climates were recommended. Thus she moved, with her daughter Andreina Costa, to Naples in 1884.

Kuliscioff's hypothesis on puerperal fever: her graduation thesisEdit

Due to the bureaucratic slowness, it was decided to continue the experimental work elsewhere. She first went to the city of Turin where she met Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) and his daughters Paola (1872-1954) and Gina (1872-1944) and then to the city of Pavia, in 1885, where she attended one of the most prestigious laboratories, the one of the future Nobel laureate Camillo Golgi. She decided to prepare her graduation thesis focusing into a particularly demanding field such as epidemiology, devoting herself to the study of the pathogenesis of puerperal fevers which represented one of the main female causes of death: a particularly stimulating field of research and in clear development both as a result of the discoveries of microbiology and the appearance, also in Italy, of significant developments of a political nature in hygienic rehabilitation. This involved the affirmation of a concept of “social medicine”, strongly characterized by a democratic and socialistic ideology.[3] She concluded her thesis with the audacious hypothesis that the agent of the infection is to be identified not so much in a streptococcus, as supposed by Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), but in microorganisms of another nature, the proteins of putrefaction. Golgi first supported Kuliscioff's hypothesis; however, already in the following year she was denied by other collaborators of her laboratory in Pavia. Her graduation thesis is her only scientific publication, published in the “Gazzetta degli Ospedali'.

The doctor of the poorEdit

After completing her graduation thesis, she returned to the University of Naples and in 1886 she is the first woman to graduate in medicine and surgery. After graduating in Medicine, she moved again in 1887, this time to specialize in the medical clinic of Achille De Giovanni (1838-1916) in Padua. In 1888 she specialized in gynecology, first in Turin, then in Padua. The choice to concentrate her own studies in the field of gynecology appears as a demonstration of Kuliscioff's fidelity to the feminist cause.[4] Thus Kuliscioff could find a link between professional and political activity.[3] During these years she had been in a relationship with Filippo Turati. She decided to move to Milan with him. She tried to get hired as a doctor at the Maggiore Hospital, but she was rejected because she was a woman. After both her academic career and that of a hospital doctor, she began her career as a "doctor of the poor" in via San Pietro all'Olmo 18. She offered free medical assistance to poor women. The profession of doctor of the poor forced her to be a spectator of the miserable living conditions of the Milan workers.[4]  She wanted to intervene politically in this field. Becoming a “doctor of the poor” appeared to her as a sort of force of will. She was truly admired for her work; her daily visits were expected as a blessing, in fact it was not a visit from a doctor, it was something more.[5] Anna Kuliscioff was considered a comforter, a friend, trustworthy woman of those who suffered and their beloved. Her patients described her as a woman who was able to penetrate the depths of souls. She treated the poor people with affectionate familiarity. Kuliscioff did not dedicate her care only to the poor, in fact, even the ladies of the bourgeoisie entrusted themselves to her care.[6] Unfortunately this didn’t last for too long due to her physical conditions. She retired to her home where she continued her lively political militancy. During the 20th century, the presence of women, first in medical schools and later in hospitals and every healthcare facility, registered a slow but constant increase.

Partial worksEdit

  • Il monopolio dell'uomo: conferenza tenuta nel circolo filologico milanese, Milán, Critica sociale, 1894. (in Italian)
  • A. Kuliscioff, F. Turati, Il voto alle donne: polemica in famiglia per la propaganda del suffragio universale in Italia, Milán, Uffici della critica sociale, 1910. (in Italian)
  • Proletariato femminile e Partito socialista: relazione al Congresso nazionale socialista 1910, Milán, Critica sociale, 1910. (in Italian)
  • Donne proletarie, a voi...: per il suffragio femminile, Milán, Società editrice Avanti!, 1913. (in Italian)
  • Lettere d'amore a Andrea Costa, 1880-1909, Milán, Feltrinelli, 1976. (in Italian)


  • Bolpagni Paolo, Arte, socialità, politica. Articoli dell’“Avanti della Domenica” 1903-1907, Fondazione Anna Kuliscioff - EDIFIS, Milano, 2011.
  • Bolpagni Paolo, L’arte nell’“Avanti della Domenica” 1903-1907, Mazzotta, Milano, 2008.
  • Borghi Luca, Umori - il fattore umano nella storia delle discipline biomediche, SEU, 2012. (In Italian)
  • Casalini Maria, Anna Kuliscioff. La signora del socialismo italiano. Editori Riuniti Univ. Press, 2013. (In Italian)
  • Damiani Franco and Rodriguez Fabio (edited by), Anna Kuliscioff: immagini, scritti, testimonianze, Feltrinelli, 1978. (In Italian)
  • Kuliscioff Anna, Turati Filippo, Amore e socialismo. Un carteggio inedito, La nuova Italia, 2001. ISBN 88-221-3965-8
  • Scienza a due voci, Rosenstejn, detta Kuliscioff Anna (Anja) — Scienza a due voci, 2009. (In Italian)
  • Shepherd Naomi, "Anna Kuliscioff" Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, Jewish Women's Archive, 2009.


  1. ^ a b "Anna Kuliscioff". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved 2021-05-15.
  2. ^ Damiani Franco, Rodriguez Fabio. Anna Kuliscioff - immagini, scritti, testimonianze. Universale economica Feltrinelli. p. 20.
  3. ^ a b Casalini, Maria. La signora del socialismo italiano. Editori Riuniti. p. 77.
  4. ^ a b Casalini, Maria. La signora del socialismo italiano. Editori Riuniti. pp. 96–97.
  5. ^ Damiani Franco, Rodriguez Fabio. Anna Kuliscioff-immagini, scritti, testimonianze. Universale Economica Feltrinelli. p. 69.
  6. ^ Damiani Franco, Rodriguez Fabio. Anna Kuliscioff-immagini, scritti, testimonianze. Universale Economica Feltrinelli. p. 70.

External linksEdit