About Ida Irene Dalser
She was a lover and possibly the first wife of Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
Ida Dalser was born in Sopramonte, a village near Trento, the capital of the ethnically Italian Trentino region, at that time within the borders of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The daughter of the village mayor, she was sent to Paris to study cosmetic medicine, and when she came back she moved to Milan, where she opened a French-style beauty salon.
Marriage and motherhood:
It is unclear whether Ida Dalser first met young Benito Mussolini in Trento (where he had found his first job as a journalist in 1909) or in Milan (where he had moved soon afterwards). The two started a relationship and when Mussolini was refused work on the basis of his fervent socialist political activity, she financed him with the revenues of her beautician job. According to some sources, they got married in 1914, and in 1915 she bore him his first child, Benito Albino Mussolini. However, there are no records of this presumptive marriage.
Estrangement and start of legal dispute:
The reasons why Mussolini and Dalser grew estranged at some time between their presumptive marriage and the birth of their son remain unclear, although his affair with another woman, Rachele Guidi, may have played a role. When World War I broke out, Mussolini decided to enlist. On December 17, 1915, while an inpatient at a hospital in Treviglio, Mussolini married Rachele Guidi. When this became known to Ida Dalser, a legal dispute began between her and the new couple.
Immediately after his second marriage, Mussolini left Italy to fight in the First World War. While he was on service, the Kingdom of Italy regularly paid Dalser a war pension, and when Mussolini was injured by a mortar shot in 1917, she received a visit from the Carabinieri notifying her that her husband was wounded in action.
Persecution and death:
In 1917, Mussolini came back from the war with completely changed political ideas, abandoning socialism and founding fascism. His political career accelerated: in 1919 he went on to found the Fasci italiani di combattimento, which became the National Fascist Party in 1921; in the latter year he was also elected in the Chamber of Deputies. With the 1922 March on Rome, Mussolini seized power and became a dictator officially recognised by the then ruling House of Savoy.
Once Mussolini was in power, Ida Dalser and her son were placed under surveillance by the police, and paper evidence of their relationship was tracked down to be destroyed by government agents. She still persisted in vocally claiming her role as the dictator's wife, and even publicly denounced Mussolini as a traitor, stating that during his years in Milan he had accepted a bribe from the French government in exchange for political campaigning in support of the involvement of then neutral Italy in the war on the side of France. Eventually, she was forcibly interned in the psychiatric hospital of Pergine Valsugana, and then transferred to that of the island of San Clemente in Venice, where she died in 1937. The cause of death was registered as "brain hemorrhage".
Benito Albino's fate:
Benito Albino Mussolini was abducted by government agents, told his mother was dead, and was adopted as an orphan by the fascist ex-police chief of Sopramonte. Initially educated at a Barnabite college in Milan, he enrolled in the Italian Royal Navy, and always remained under close surveillance by the fascist government. Still he persisted in stating Benito Mussolini was his father, and was eventually forcibly interned in an asylum in Mombello, Province of Milan too, where he died in 1942, aged twenty-six.
Rediscovery and Dalser's life in film:
The story of Benito Mussolini's first marriage was suppressed during fascist rule, and remained generally unknown for years afterwards. It was uncovered by Italian journalist Marco Zeni and made public through a TV documentary on state television as well as two books (L'ultimo filò and La moglie di Mussolini).
Vincere, a biopic on Dalser's life, was screened at the 2009 American Film Institute Festival and in competition at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
Ida Dalser's Timeline
August 20, 1880
Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Italy
November 11, 1915
Milan, Lombardy, Italy
December 11, 1937
Venice, Veneto, Italy