#OTD in 1926 – Dublin-born, Violet Albina Gibson, daughter of Lord Ashbourne, shot Benito Mussolini in Rome on this date.

Italian Fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, had just given a speech in Rome to the International Congress of Surgeons when a bullet nearly ended his life. After Mussolini finished his speech praising modern medicine, he walked to his car. At the time, no one noticed Violet Gibson, a small Irish woman with a long history of mental illness, standing among the crowd, just feet from Mussolini.

Once Mussolini was in his car, 50-year-old Gibson raised her revolver and pointed it at Mussolini’s head. She then fired at nearly point-blank range.

At nearly that exact time, a band started playing “Giovinezza,” the National Fascist Party’s official hymn. Once the song started, Mussolini turned to face the flag and snapped to attention, bringing his head back just enough for the bullet fired by Gibson to nearly miss him.

Rather than passing into Mussolini’s head, the bullet passed through part of Mussolini’s nose, leaving burn marks on both of his cheeks. Although onlookers and his staff were worried that the wound could be serious, it was not. Within minutes, Mussolini reappeared, wearing a large bandage over his nose. He was most surprised that it was a woman who had tried to kill him. Just after the attack, Mussolini murmured, “A woman! Fancy, a woman!”

After the shooting, Gibson was grabbed by the crowd and nearly lynched on the spot, but policemen were able to save her and bring her in for questioning. No real motive for the shooting was discovered and it is believed that she was insane when she attempted the assassination. Interestingly, rather than having Gibson killed, Mussolini had her deported to Britain, where she spent her remaining years in a mental asylum.

Image | Violet Gibson (L) and Benito Mussolini (R)

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