The author would like to express thanks to Maura Quiriconi for having shared the personal archive of her mother, from which all pictures published in this article are taken (except for where indicated).

PLEASE NOTE – Express permission is required to reproduce ANY of the images of this article – please contact Playing Pasts or the author for more details.


To Read Part 1 Click HERE , Part 2 Click HERE , Part 3 Click HERE and Part 4 HERE


Elda was becoming a rising athlete, starting in 1940 when she had the chance to compete (in Italy) against foreign competition. Since their names are not written on the back of the photos, some research work had to be done … The first is the Swiss jumper Ilsebill Pfenning, from the SAL club (the athletics club located in Lugano, in the Italian-language Canton Ticino). In 1938 she was only 6th in the European Women’s Athletics Championship in Wien (clearing a height of 1.55m). But later, on July 2th 1941, she equaled the world record, jumping 1.66m

Even in 1940, when she competed for the first time against Elda, Ilsebill tried to break the world record, set by English-woman Dorothy Odam-Tyler in 1939. A newspaper clipping tells that, after having overcome her Italian opponents Elda and Marcella Sannazaro (who both jumped 1.48m), she twice broke the Swiss record, jumping 1.61m and 1.63m. Then Ilsebill asked to raise the bar to 1.67m but she failed to clear that height …

Elda, Ilsebill Pfenning and Marcella Sannazaro after the high jump at the 1940 Coppa Principessa di Piemonte (Turin, 04/05/1940)
Although the caption on the back of this picture says 1939, the identification of the 1940 date is correct and collaborated by a picture of this event’s podium ( ).

Ilsebill Pfenning (wearing a new SAL shirt) and Elda in Turin (22/09/1940).

An Italian article praising the birth of the first women’s athletics group in Lugano (Summer 1934)
Source: Azzurri, 04/06/1934, p. 6.

A pair of photographs taken in 1940 show us how an award ceremony could be a mess …

While Elda is performing the Roman salute, the other two Italian athletes and the judge (wearing a Fascist black shirt) are calling Ilsebill Pfenning onto the podium (Turin, 22/09/1940).

Ilsebill Pfenning is the winner, while the three Italian girls are the equal silver medallists.

Further photographs shed light on what was happening around the athletes, in the background of the events.

Elda jumping in Turin (22/09/1940).

An athlete (possibly Elda) jumping during the 1940 National Championship in Florence, hosted in Stadio Berta (today the Stadio Franchi)
Note the judges and the athletes in the background.

In 1940 Elda also had the chance to meet the German discus thrower Gisela Mauermayern in Turin and took the opportunity to have her photograph taken with the 1936 Olympic gold medalist.

Gisela and Elda in Turin (22/09/1940)
For another picture of that day autographed by Gisela herself, see .

Elda during the long jump that day: she won the silver medal.

Elda wearing the SIP shirt (Turin, 22/09/1940).

1940 wasn’t a good year for Elda: in the National Championship held in Florence on July, 21th 1940, she won only a silver medal in high jump and a bronze medal in long jump, defeated respectively by Ondina Valla and her friend Amelia Piccinini, the woman from Alessandria who in 1933 dreamed of playing football ( ). In the second photograph we can see Elda watching the smile on the face of the Olympic champion, who was on her way out: the 1940 National title was her last one.

Below, from the left: Amelia Piccinini; Italia Lucchini; Claudia Testoni; Giorgina Grossi; Elda (14/07/1940)
One week later the National Championship would take place in Florence, so we can perhaps assume that this photo was taken in that city when the athletes gathered.

The high jump podium at the 1940 National Championship (Florence, 21/07/1940)
From the left: Ondina Valla (SS Parioli); Elda; Marcella Sannazaro (Dopolavoro Pettinatura Biella).

The long jump podium  at the 1940 National Championship (Florence, 21/07/1940)
From the left: Amelia Piccinini (GS Venchi Unica); Maria Alfero (GS La Filotecnica Milano); Elda.

One year later, in Modena, Elda took the crown. On July, 13th 1941 she won the 80m hurdles, defeating Adele Tomatis (GS Venchi Unica) but above all Ondina Valla, who had won the Olympic title in this discipline. Mr. Bertoldo (the DAS president) underlined it, in the dedication on the back of the 2 photos depicting Elda wearing the Champions’ shirt. Moreover, since Claudia Testoni (Ondina’s rival throughout the Thirties) had withdrawn, Elda could really become the new Italian 80m hurdles Queen.

To Elda Franco, winner in Modena,  July, 13th 1942, 19th year of the Fascist Era
By your President G. Bertoldo

In remembrance of  the great victory of [Ondina] Valla and [Adele] Tomatis in 12’’ 6/10! G. Bertoldo.

The great Modena victory is probably the best documented sporting exploit in the two Elda’s Albums.

1941 Women’s National Championship 80m hurdles final
On the back, Elda notes that Faggion (on the extreme left) was 1st at this point – but she finished 6th …

Elda (2nd row) eventually wins the race, outdistancing both Adele Tomatis (3rd row) and Ondina Valla (4th row).

Elda wearing the 1941 National Champion shirt.

Elda and Adele Tomatis on the 80m hurdles podium
Ondina Valla [3rd place] is missing and may be one of the two athletes in the background

The Red Notebook page about the victory in Modena.

The Italian press depicted Elda as member of a new generation of Italian athletes, who would eventually substitute Ondina Valla and Claudia Testoni, but no-one at the time could imagine that they were going to have to wait  until 1948 to see the next Olympic Games …

The title of this clipping says: ‘The young girls of the last call oust the old women in most of the 9 events of the National Championship’.

Elda (the only girl kneeling) with all the other 1941 National Champions (Modena, 13/07/1941)
Although the handwritten caption on the back of the picture says 1939, the athlete on the right of Elda, almost isolated, is Gina Tagliapietra, who won her first National title in 1941
The blonde athlete in the centre of the front row is Italia Lucchini, and  on the extreme right is Livia Galimberti, who passed away in May 2021.

Another image of the 1941 National Champions (Modena, 13/07/1941).

In the summer of 1941, Elda was finally ready to represent her country: but in that year the National team took part in no international meetings, because of the political isolation after Mussolini’s entry into the war on May 1940.  Elda was however young enough to represent Italy in the Hitlerjugend athletics meeting held in the very last days of August in Wrocław, at that time the Reich’s city of Breslau, to which the Italian GIL was also invited.

Elda with some Italian athletes in Bologna (August 1941)
Ondina Valla is the 5th standing (wearing a white blouse)
Elda is seated 1st from the left, Maria Alfero is the 4th seated.

The Red Notebook page about the Wrocław meeting
Note that Elda later corrected the state of Breslavia (The Italian name of Wrocław) from Germany to Poland

German special postmark for the 5th Sommerkampfspiele der Hitler Jugend, from 25 to 31 August 1941

The title of this clipping talks about the silver medal won in Wrocław by Elda

An Istituto Luce propaganda newsreel (20/10/1941): of course the focus is on the victories by the Italian athletes.


In the Istituto Luce video, the Italian girls are depicted also as passionate supporters of their female and male peers on the stands
But at 00:47 you can see that there’s an old woman [first from the left] not clapping with all the young Orvieto Sports Academy students
Thanks to Angela Teja, we can identify her as Andreina Sacco Gotta, the famous gymnast trainer, who had been an athletics and basketball member at the Società Ginnastica Torinese and who had helped Lydia Bongiovanni at the beginning of her career [see Part 1]

One month later, the German athletes returned the visit and travelled to Turin. On both occasions, Elda won the silver medal in 80m hurdles.

The Italian GIL athletes in Turin (28/09/1941). Elda is 2nd from the left.

The 80m hurdles
From the left: Elda (GIL); Annemarie Kaufmann (HJ); Anna Fovana (GIL); Cilly Bednarck (HJ).

The 80m hurdles podium
From the left: Anna Fovana (GIL); Elda (GIL); Annemarie Kaufmann (HJ); Cilly Bednarck (HJ).

One year later, Elda finally had her chance to debut in the National team, when the team competed with Hungary, at that time an Axis country.

Elda (the 1st from left) during the trials before the Hungary – Italy meeting (1942).

Elda wearing the National team tracksuit (1942).

On July, 19th 1942 Elda made her debut in Budapest: she won the gold medal in 80m hurdles, and the silver medal in long jump, giving her a great personal contribute to the Italian victory (54) over Hungary (37).

Italy National team during the opening ceremony of the Hungary – Italy meeting.

Elda during the long jump

Elda (2nd from left) with the runners who competed in the 80m hurdles event
The other Italian athlete is Marmiroli, the Hungarians are Margit Zeley and Mária Rohrmann.

Elda in Budapest.

A clipping about the gold medal won by Elda (1st from left) in Budapest.

In September 1942, as told in Part 3 (see, ), Elda was called to represent Italy in the first (and last) edition of the European Youth Sports Championship, in Milan. One photo shows her with all her female and male team mates in the hall of the famous Hotel Gallia together with some Fascist officials.

Elda is the 2nd in the first row – here’s a very similar photo:
Note: Male athlets are in tracksuits and long white trousers, while their (few) female peers are in white shirts and skirts.

From the Fascist press, Elda’s title was ‘European Champion’, just as if the event wasn’t reserved for the athletes from the Axis countries

The long jump podium

The fact that Elda (like Giovanna Boccalini Barcellona did with her daughter Grazia’s photo-albums: see ) preserved these clippings and photographs in her albums is very important: even many years after WW2, the former partisan didn’t consider her victory as a ‘Nazi-Fascist’ one. Probably, like many athletes of that time (see the recent article by Keith Rathbone ), she simply thought that she was representing her country, not Fascist Italy.

Elda (2nd from left) warming-up with a team mate at the GS Venchi Unica sports center (Turin, 1942).

One may wonder how Italian female athletes like Elda could train, compete and win while their country was at war, first bombed by Allied planes  (Turin wasn’t spared at all by the bombings!) and then invaded by two foreign armies. Unlucky, Elda didn’t write any letters or a diary, so we can’t know what was going on her mind; but she was a clerk. So, from 1940, she registered all the money prize gained from her sporting exploits. We can even built up a database, which sheds light on a generally under-rated dimension of Italian sportswomen of that age, the economical one. Of course, Elda didn’t compete to earn money: but she did gain some Italian lire thanks to sport!

Here we can see the prizes from 1940 to 1943:


Place Event Discipline Ranking Prize money     [Italian lira]

2021 purchasing power [in euro] *


Genova Riun. naz. high jump 2 60



Genova Coppa Principessa di Piemonte long jump 2 60 45,78
09/05/1940 Torino Campionato high jump 3 50



Torino Campionato long jump 3 50 38,15
19/05/1940 Torino Campionato high jump 2


Torino Campionato 80m hurdles 2 100 76,30
26/05/1940 Torino Campionato high jump



Torino Campionato 80m hurdles 1
16/06/1940 Torino Campionato high jump 1


Torino Campionato (finale) 80m hurdles 4 100



Torino Campionato (finale) high jump



Firenze Assoluti long jump 3 50 38,15
21/07/1940 Firenze Assoluti high jump 2 55



Torino Riun. naz. high jump 2 36 27,47
22/09/1940 Torino Riun. naz. long jump 2 an item



Villar Perosa Gara prov. long jump 2 30 22,89
28/10/1940 Villar Perosa Gara prov. high jump 1 40



Genova Riun. nazion. long jump 3 50 32,97
04/05/1941 Genova Riun. nazion. 80m hurdles 2 60



Torino Campionato 80m hurdles 3 50 32,97
15/06/1941 Monza Riun. nazion. 80m hurdles 2 60



Monza Riun. nazion. long jump 5 20 13,19
13/07/1941 Modena Assoluti high jump eliminata


Modena Assoluti 80m hurdles 1 80 52,75
10/08/1941 Vercelli Riun. nazion. 80m hurdles 1


Vercelli Riun. nazion. 4x100m relay 1
31/08/1941 Breslau National Team (Hitlerjugend – GIL) 80m hurdles 2


Torino Campionato 80m hurdles 6 10



Torino Campionato high jump 6 10 6,59
28/09/1941 Torino National Team (GIL -Hitlerjugend) 80m hurdles 2


Vigevano Riun. nazion. long jump 3 60 39,57


Vigevano Riun. nazion. 80m hurdles 4 40


03/05/1942 Torino Coppa Principessa di Piemonte long jump 1 80



Torino Coppa Principessa di Piemonte 4x100m relay 3 15 8,56


Torino Campionato Piemontese 80m hurdles 1 40


24/05/1942 Genova Riun. nazion. 80m hurdles 3 ?



Como Assoluti 80m hurdles 1 80 45,64
31/05/1942 Como Campionato long jump 2 60



Bologna Assoluti long jump 1 80 45,64
28/06/1942 Bologna Assoluti 80m hurdles 1 80



Torino GP La Stampa long jump 2 60



Torino GP La Stampa 80m hurdles 1 80



Budapest National Team (Italia – Ungheria) long jump 2


Budapest National Team (Italia – Ungheria) 80m hurdles 1


Intra Riun. nazion. 80m hurdles 1 80



Torino Campionato long jump 1 80


13/09/1942 Torino Campionato 4x100m relay 1 30



Milano National Team (Campionati Europei della Gioventù Euopea) long jump 1


Milano National Team (Campionati Europei della Gioventù Euopea) 80m hurdles 2


Vigevano Riun. nazion. long jump 1 100


04/10/1942 Vigevano Riun. nazion. 4x100m relay 1 100



Piacenza Riun. nazion. 80m hurdles 1 80 45,64
02/05/1943 Roma Riun. nazion. 80m hurdles 1


Torino Campionato long jump 2 60



Torino Campionato 80m hurdles 1 80



Torino Campionato Piemontese long jump 1 40



Milano Assoluti long jump 2 60


04/07/1943 Milano Assoluti 80m hurdles 1 80



Elda registered no prizes for years 1944 and 1945: we don’t know if it was a choice made by her, or if prizes were no longer given to the athletes, due to war and/or to the Fascist Republican state policy. Here are the 1946 prizes (after which then she stopped registering):


Date Place Event Discipline Ranking Prize  Money

(in Italian lira)

2021 Purchasing Power

(in euro) *


Torino Riun. interregion. high jump 2 150 4,94
19/05/1946 Torino Riun. interregion. long jump 2 150



Parma Riun. nazion. long jump 2 300 9,88
09/06/1946 Parma Riun. nazion. 80m hurdles 2 300



Parma Riun. nazion. 4x100m relay 3 85 2,80
23/06/1946 Milano Riun. nazion. 80m hurdles 1 350



Milano Riun. nazion. long jump 1 350 11,53
23/06/1946 Milano Riun. nazion. 4x100m relay 3 100



A synthesis, year by year:



Total PrizeMoney

(in Italian lira)

2021 Purchasing Power 

(in euro) *


631 481,46
1941 440



1045 596,12
1943 320






A lot of things can be seen from these tables:

1) the money prizes were – of course – proportional to the ranking;

2) the relay prizes were smaller that the single discipline ones;

3) the Italian Team never gave any lira to Elda, probably because representing Italy was considered as a duty;

4) some private competitions offered monetary prizes even bigger than those of the Single National Championships (Assoluti), which was the major sporting title of the year;

5) due to runaway war inflation, Elda gained very little money from her victories. Maybe the purchasing power converter I have used ( ) is quite exaggerated, but another source ( ) states that in 1942 Milan – butter cost 80 lire for 1 kg: that was Elda’s average prize for a gold medal in that year! As Ondina Valla was always saying in her later interviews, all 1930s’ and 1940s’ women Italian athletes never won the same amount of money their 20th-century colleagues would do: but Elda was extremely unlucky in emerging as a high-level athlete during the those war years … And the year after the end of war was even worse …

Elda during the long jump  at the Gran Premio La Stampa (Turin, 12/07/1942)
For her silver medal she was awarded 60 lire.

The Red Notebook page about that victory

During 1942, Elda went on competing with her SIP team mates.

Elda Franco’s photo portrait, she is wearing a SIP shirt (May 1942).

Four SIP athletes (the 4x100m relay team?) in Turin (03/05/1942)
Note that the 2nd athlete and Elda (as you can see in the next picture) are both wearing shorts with side buttons, while the athlete between them has zipped shorts.

Edla finishing 2nd in a speed event, the winner might Italia Lucchini [Vigevano, 1943]

On July, 4th 1943, just three weeks before the fall of the Fascist Regime, the National Championship took place in Milan. In the 80m hurdles, Ondina tried to regain her title, but the 27-years old champion, devastated by back pain caused by lack of adequate training during her career, had to settle for a bronze medal.

Elda in Milan (04/07/1943).

The 80m hurdles 1943 National Championship podium (Milan, 04/07/1943)
From the left: Giulia Bertotti (3rd Venchi Unica Torino); Elda (1st, SIP); Ondina Valla (2nd, Gozzi Sport Ferrara)
Note the photographer on the right!

Elda’s victory in the 80m hurdles
Note 1) the gap between her and her opponents
2) the fact that the judges are now not wearing black clothes, but more suitable white ones.

A portrait of Elda as 1943 National Champion.

During 1944, Elda went on competing with SIP, but her focus was no longer on sports. First of all, on March, 15th 1944, she entered into the Italian resistance, in same SAP group led by Lydia Bongiovanni: her nickname was ‘Sonia’.

Elda and a Giordana Genoa athlete exchange bouguets (Turin, 18/05/1944)
this image may well imply that Elda was the SIP captain.

Elda (3rd from left) during a 80m hurdles race (Turin, 18/05/1944)
In more than one clipping, the 1944 Italian press complained about Elda being overweight …

The SIP team (Turin, 18/05/1944): the Torre di Maratona watching over them
Elda and Brunilde Leone are the 1st and 2nd athletes kneeling.

The back of the previous picture
Note that, at this time, 1944, the stadium is still named after Mussolini, and the Fascist Era year (XXII) is still written after the standard one (1944).

The second fact was that Elda became engaged to Bruno Quiriconi, a Società Ginnastica Torinese (SGT) basketball player, who would become her husband some years later …

Elda winning the 4x100m relay as anchor leg runner (Turin, 18/05/1944).

On the back of the previous picture
Elda wrote:’To Bruno, with great affection. May you appreciate and love athletics Elda’

The SGT male basketball team

Bruno Quiriconi (1947).

According to Maura Quiriconi, her parents Bruno and Elda met because of Brunilde Leone, a SIP mate.

A clipping about an 800m event (1943)
From the left: Lucia Racchetto (3rd SIP); Brunilde Leone (1st, SIP); Vanda Butti (2nd, Dopolavoro Singer Monza)

The 95-years old Vanda Butti who passed away in 2017
In 1943, she and her Singer team mates won the 4x100m relay National title.
Source: .

The 800m race was still considered as a quite controversial discipline for women, with some saying that the 800m was too hard an event for them
The caption of this 1943 photo says: ‘After reaching the finish line, all the athletes imitate Brunilde Leone: they cannot stand up straight … ‘


Read Part 6 HERE 

Article © of Marco Giani


Further Reading 

For the complete digital edition of all Elda Franco’s picture preserved in her two photo-albums, see:

For all the clippings preserved in Elda Franco’s personal archive, see:

For more resources about Elda Franco’s personal archive, see:

For Italian sources about the carriers of Lydia Bongiovanni and Elda Franco, see: