Maria Luisa Berneri: a woman in Utopia



Maria Luisa Berneri was born in Arezzo, Italy, in 1918 and died in London in 1949: a short and remarkable life.

She spent her childhood up to the age of 8 in Italy, from 8 to 19 she lived in Paris, and the last twelve years of her life were spent in Britain. When she was 4 her father Camillo Berneri, an anarchist, was arrested by the fascist police. It was the beginning of her family’s odyssey to escape the persecution.

In 1926 they fled to France, without any passports nor luggage. Life was hard for all political refugees in France. In the following years the frequent arrests, imprisonment, and deportation of her father affected her intimately. His father eventually died in the Spain revolution, killed by the Communists in 1937.

In Paris Marie Louise (she had Frenchified her name) developed an intellectual curiosity and a keen critical sense, which distinguished her at school, at the university and in the anarchist group. In 1938 (cf. she contributed to the establishment of a publication  titled Révision.

She met Vero Recchioni and together they moved to London, where he changed his name in Vernon Richards. They had an active role in the building up of an anarchist newspaper, “Freedom”, the only antimilitarist publication in Britain in the period between 1939 and 1945, and in running a publishing organisation.

In the war period she was arrested with three other comrades, for sedition. As an anarchist writer and revolutionary journalist, she researched and wrote the volume “A Journey Through Utopia”, published in 1950, which add to the reputation she had been gaining in the international anarchist movement as one of the most promising thinkers of the younger generation.

She had a daughter from Vernon, who died at birth. A few months later also Marie Louise died from an infection. Her and the baby’s ashes were scattered in Kerr Wood, Hampstead.

From the website  here is a file by the Marie Louise Berneri Memorial Committee, London, containing some photographs taken by  Berneri: Marie Louise Berneri (1918-1949). A tribute

In the Italian page Attilio Ianniello writes about  an imaginary meeting with Marie Louise Berneri in the Park of Time, Belvedere, Mondovì.