College Papers/Womens Roles college paper 14430

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Depending on a woman^Ã’s role or class in society, she could be restricted or

praised by her words and actions. As in almost any civilization, money brings

certain advantages, the greatest one of the Renaissance times being education.

The upper class women were taught that silence towards and obligation to their

husbands was considered proper. Eloquence was equivalent to silence in the

male frame of mind. Keeping with the theme of male dominance, it has been said

that "Woman^Ã’s attempt to rule is an act of treason." (2) Any act of liberation

was seen as a violation against God, otherwise the people they called "men"

(2). The speech of a woman has been compared to "the naked of her limbs" (4)

inferring the spoken thought of a woman with any basis in intellect would be

shameful, embarrassing or something even to look down upon. Therefore, because

any outward act of intelligence was a "violation," this could be seen as a

distinct limitation.

But it has also been said that a woman could "speak very elegantly and she was

able in all those languages to answer ambassadors on the sudden." (1)

Although, it was only being applied to Queen Elizabeth I, the statement can

also be applied to other such greats in the past like Queen Isabella of Spain,

Anne of Brittany-Queen of Charles VIII, and of the mid 1440^Ã’s- Isotta Nogarola

(5). The idea of a woman^Ã’s intelligence was not completely denounced in

Renaissance times; everyone knew that it did exist, but the people went out

about repressing it in such a way that it was viewed by the majority of people

as something disgraceful and disreputable.

Within the homes, for upper class women, some of the problems as mentioned

above remained, but where not as severe always. Moving on, the upper class did

have some leverage when it came to their inner family circle. For example, the

wealthier families paid nurses to breast feed their children. But, then again,

because of this, the wealthier women bore more children, each time risking

their lives; for the morality rate of childbirth was 10% in all women. The age

range for the wealthy women to have children fell somewhere in adolescence

while the range for the poorer and merchant classes was their mid-twenties.

One of the most important thing when it came to raising a child was to make

sure that he or she had all his or her needs fulfilled, most importantly, once

again, being necessity of knowledge in social skills and humanitarian studies.

The poorer and merchant classes could not afford a formal education but men

and women alike were trained in some kind of trade. The wealthier families

could afford tutors. Reading was stressed, but the concept of silence and

eloquence being interchangeable was still stressed among women. Yet after

understanding the significance of a quality education, the two main goals of a

woman^Ã’s education were still to develop the belief that male was superior and

to master the tools needed to raise a family properly.

Even still, it was difficult to obtain this kind of quality education in the

humanistic studies that so few women fulfilled. According to Laura Cereta,

"^Ã…Knowledge is not given as a gift, but (is gained) with diligence."*. The

ability to learn is in all women. She continues to re-enforce that women have

not banded together strongly enough in their fight for a quality schooling

when she states," (But) where we (women) should be forceful we are (too often)

devious; where we should be confident we are insecure. (Even worse), we are

content with our condition."* . Women have not been strong enough in their

fight for knowledge even though Cereta clearly points out throughout her

writings they had the definite mental capability. It was society that hindered


Continuing with the motif of hindrance, because society limited women in a

number of ways in getting a quality course of study, many entered the convent.

This way, they could receive a quality education for free. Both upper and

merchant class families would put their daughters in convents for one basic

reason; they could not afford to marry both daughters because the dowries of

each would be lessened and not as "attractive" when making marriage

arrangements. Though this seemed to be an advantageous way of learning, it did

have its faults. According to Christen de Pisan, "Some say that clerks or

priests have written your works for you for they could not come from feminine

intelligence^Ã…" (7). As once can see, it was not only in the "social" aspect

that women have been neglected the recognition of mind, but also in the church

where one would conceive respect is almost obligatory. But then again, the

church^Ã’s prestige in general was declining.

Also, in the convent, they were forced to practice chastity. Women who bore

illegitimate children not only faced the banishment and bring disgrace upon

their families, but taxation, imprisonment and banishment. Women had a

multitude of opinions about the convents. Some saw it as a "house of

detention," but others looked at this more positively. As I stated above this

was one of the few places that a women could receive a meritorious education,

mainly with a focus on the humanities. In the 10c, a woodcut by Alfred D^× rer,

he shows a 10c nun giving self-written Latin satires to Emperor Otto I (15).

"They were recovered and published in 1501 by the German humanist Conrad

Celtis" (15). In some rare instances, women did become recognized.

For those women who were not forced to go into the convent and wished to work,

they were also presented with a number of possibilities and restrictions. Like

the upper Renaissance women, their family situation(s) were equal in such the

man was head. The major difference between the two classes has to be their

daily tasks. Not only did the merchant-urban class have to raise a family, but

they also held trade jobs. Many women were butchers, iron workers, and a

collection of diversified types of artisans. Nevertheless, women were not

allowed to teach others their trade. One would say that a woman probably was

not competent enough to teach it to others. But if she was competent enough to

learn it, why would one doubt that she could teach it? The last difference

that occurred with merchant women was that they did earn some respect in their

work place, but it would never be publicly recognized.

Society, through the ages, looked at women as a group, like an other

discriminated group, not as people of manifold capabilities. Although this

view of women as a minority is continued into today^Ã’s society, one could say

that some progress has been made in the aspects of education and occupations.


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