Renaissance Women

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Did women and men benefit equally from the Renaissance? The Renaissance was a time of massive change and enlightenment. Beginning in Italy, this was a movement of an interest in Latin and Greek classics, the ideas of humanism and individualism spread and changed the thinking of many people. Whether men and women benefited equally from the Renaissance is a question historians have been trying to answer for years. Historian Mary R. Beard contends that during the Renaissance, Italian women of the upper class looked to the study of Greek and Roman literature and dedicated themselves alongside men to developing a well-rounded character. When men went off to war the women would teach themselves math, science, astronomy, and how to read and talk in…show more content…
Many of them made special tributes to women. Boccaccio, a passionate humanist and poet wrote De Casibus Virorum Illustrium which discussed the troubles of illustrious men. But he also wrote about women in De Claris Mulieribus, which included Eve, Giovanna, Cleopatra, Lucretia, Portia, Semiramis, and Sappho (Beard, 125). About one hundred years later Henry C. Agrippa outdid Boccaccio in his work De nobilitate et praecellentia feminei sexus. “This discussed the nobility and super excellence of women and he employed the writings of fable-makers, poets, historians, and the canon law in efforts to prove the case. He also resorted to theological, physical, historical, moral, and even magical evidences to support this argument” (Beard, 126).
Joan Kelly-Gadol’s book “Did Women have a Renaissance?” written in 1974, questioned the traditional thoughts of women’s part in history. Kelly-Gadol gives some criteria in order to measure loss or gain of liberty of women. These four criteria are: 1) The regulation of female sexuality as compared to male sexuality; 2) Women’s economic and political roles; 3) The cultural roles of women in shaping the outlook of their society and 4) Ideology about women (Kelly-Gadol, 128). This criteria can be used to investigate and really measure the loss or gain of liberty of women during the start of the Renaissance
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Using Kelly-Gadol’s criteria we can try to measure the change of women’s roles during the Renaissance. As Kelly-Gadol states, with the loss of courtly love there is also a loss of sexual freedom. Women were vowed to chastity during marriage and many women did not have a choice in their marriage. Women were required to have only one sexual partner, and this being most likely not someone who they truly love. As a result women were not allowed to show love or affection to any other man other than the one she was married to which gave her no freedom of love. But according to Mary Beard women had equal education as men available to them. This allowed them to become more philosophical and progress in their learning. This leads me to believe that women and men equally benefited from the Renaissance because women were able to do what men could
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