The anti-fascist partisan women of World War II have always been represented surrounded by a positive aura of courage and romance.
To define the italian post-unitary brigand women (brigantesse) instead, in the arrest report filled up by the military that captured them, only derogatory terms were used.
The peasant women were subjected to violence and abuse by the rich land owners, who considered them as an integral part of their possessions, and were marked for life by poverty. When a male family member became a brigante, they suffered unbearable pressure and harassment by Piedmontese soldiers that, in the best case, detained them for prolonged arrests and continuous interrogations.
Therefore it was preferable to enter illegality and face the danger of weapons, risking the life to give free rein to anger and frustration. And perhaps hoping for a less miserable life.
Not always these women were only sisters, daughters, wives, lovers of brigands: sometimes they were autonomous ringleaders and were up to the role, that was played with courage, initiative and often unexpected ferocity.
Many of them, once captured, were raped and killed with equal cruelty. Their mangled bodies were stripped and photographed and left exposed in the streets, as grisly trophies.