Women who received a humanist education were denied training in rhetoric or dialectic debate, were often referred to as honorary males and were described as fierce, combative and unchaste. Even middle-class women such as Alessandra Strozzi, who had servants and indeed slaves, would personally spin flax into fine linen46 for the use of her own household and family. This was not just the case for poor servant girls, no prospective bride or mother would be involved in such decisions. Analysis shows that the letters are fairly consistent in terms of language and style, however although her most recent editor believes this to be evidence she dictated them all76, perhaps it merely confirms there was a single mind behind the letters, not whose mind it was.
Married women were not employed as domestic servants, although they sometimes lived-in as wet-nurses. The extent to which the frequent exhortations to remain enclosed at home reflected reality for women, rather than merely a patriarchal ideal, varied by locality and class. Crum and John T. This was not just the case for poor servant girls, no prospective bride or mother would be involved in such decisions. Leon Battista Alberti wrote: This essay began by identifying five Italian Renaissance women who appeared to be exercising a degree of autonomy in their lives, despite living in a society that expected them to be more or less enclosed, more or less silent, and to be subservient to men and patriarchal authority, no matter their stage or place in life. All women — as unmarried girls, wives, widows or nuns — were defined in relation to men: Rouse, London, , p. Neither patriarchy nor misogyny was new to Italian society; however the Renaissance saw changes that institutionalised and promoted these values to a new level. However, in most cases, senior Churchmen were appointed as spiritual directors to these holy women and were highly significant in directing and controlling their lives. Sofonisba Anglissola and her five sisters received training as artists because their father saw this as a means to his own financial gain, while Plautilla Nelli, a nun from the age of 14, was a self-taught painter and miniaturist. Sitting at a window made sense when working on embroidery or sewing during the daytime, yet this also enabled women to look into the street, think about what was going on outside and be seen by men. O woman of impatient lust, How easily you twist and change. O female sex, how frail you are, how mutable you are, how lacking duty. If you have a daughter, teach her to sew and not to read, because it is not proper for a woman to know how to read unless you want her to become a nun. For the next three years she continued writing, however few of her letters seem to have been sent and many were written to imaginary people. They lived in a world where it was not possible to imagine an individual could be detached or self-contained,38 so the question of what opportunities women had to make their own lives cannot be considered in a 21st Century way. Her relief sculpture in the Church of San Petronio is quite beautiful, but it was her only serious work. Alessandra could made suggestions and comments, be a communication channel between the men in her family, but she always had to wait for men to make the decisions. Marriage negotiations were an exclusively male domain and even decisions about unmarried mothers were made by men. Castiglione was talking about women at court, but I think this would apply to all respectable women: O you girls, learn how you should stay at home, and beware of whoever enters the house, as you will see that the Virgin Mary stayed shut away at home Other than that, that she eked out a living selling carved peach pips and on several occasions was taken to court - apparently for simply trying to obtain commissions, but her manner was considered too aggressive and inappropriate for a woman. Analysis shows that the letters are fairly consistent in terms of language and style, however although her most recent editor believes this to be evidence she dictated them all76, perhaps it merely confirms there was a single mind behind the letters, not whose mind it was. Renaissance men and women were not just enmeshed in family groups and networks; everyone was more or less obliged to be members of a guild, parish, confraternity or other such association. I do not approve of [noble young girls] learning languages, oratory and how to write poetry together with young male children
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Working Girls of Italy Part 1
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