The National Organization for the Protection of Motherhood and Infancy (Onmi), created in 1925, was the first and foremost Italian state-controlled agency operating in the field of social care during the Fascist era. Seeing how this organization worked in the years of the Second World War allows us to understand to what extent Fascism brought to effect the ambitious welfare policies so magniloquently boasted by the regime propaganda, all the more in times when they were called to prove really reliable and efficient. An assessment is drawn, in this essay, through the test case of the Neapolitan Federation of Onmi, whose story is examined as for the period 1939-1943. The achievements of Onmi in Naples appear significantly poor. Italy went to war not only without due economic and military preparation, but also lacking in social and relief services for the civilian population at large. In Naples these deficiencies were exasperated by both the straitened circumstances of total war (insufficient funding, food shortage) and the shortcomings and lags that the local Federation of Onmi had already accumulated prior to the world conflict. In this depressing scene the only exception appears to have been the dynamic and proactive attention the local Federation showed in carrying out the demographic policy by combating neonatal mortality as well as by protecting illegitimate children through the institution of fosterage.
Keywords: Motherhood, infancy, Naples, Fascism, Second World War, welfare, demographic policy