Teresa Bertino, the first woman to attempt a university career at the Politecnico di Torino

Teresa Bertino was one of the first women to attempt a university career at the Politecnico di Torino.

After completing her studies at the Istituto Tecnico Sommeiller, Bertino decided to enrol at the Politecnico di Torino, earning an honours degree in Civil Engineering.

Between 1915 and 1917 she was assistant professor of Mineralogy and Geology, called by professor Silvestri to replace two colleagues who had gone to fight in the First World War.

The Great War and compulsory men conscription gave women the opportunity to work in professions that had previously been precluded to them on the basis of gender.

When her colleagues returned, in 1922 she was transferred from the chair of Mineralogy to that of Hydraulics, continuing to display her skills and academic value.

In 1923, she became assistant and later adjunct professor of Hydraulics and Hydraulic Machinery, contributing with passion and expertise to the growth of her discipline.

Her important achievements did not, however, guarantee her a stable career at the Politecnico di Torino as, following a period of leave of absence, the director of her faculty decided to dismiss her due to the need to recruit a man for her role, who could perform manual jobs that were considered too strenuous for a woman.

This incident highlights the tendency to exclude women from jobs considered “masculine” on the basis of their alleged physical inability.

Her dedication and service during the First World War earned her the Green Cross Silver Medal and the Ministry’s Diploma of Merit for her service as a nurse in a military hospital from 1915 to 1917, recognitions of a commitment that went beyond academia and may be both a sign of her commitment that went beyond academia and a sign that society approved of merit only in “feminine” fields of activity.