Saturday, March 08, 2014

Catholics in International Women`s Day

Pieter de Jode 1606-ca. 1674
Portrait of Juliana Morell
c 1626
180 x 123 mm
Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid

The inscription reads:
""IVLIANA MORELLA, BARCINONENSIS / Virgo hispana Capuccinorum habitum pietatis ergo gestans, Latinae Graecae et / Hebraeae linguarum perita Philosophiae ac Iurisprudentiae studiosa: Theses philosophicas / anno Christi MDCVI aetatis XIII á se publicé disputas Margaritae Austriae / Hispaniarum Indiarumque Reginae inscripsit & evulgavit. Floret Lugduni / in Gallia, Musicis instrumentis aliisque ingenii Artibus apprime exercita"

Juliana Morell (16 February 1594 – 26 June 1653) was a Spanish Dominican nun, and the first woman to receive a Doctor of Laws degree.

Portrait of Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia
18th century
Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan

Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia (1646 – 26 July 1684) was a Venetian philosopher of noble descent, and the first woman to receive a university degree.

The English sources do not really do this remarkable woman justice or highlight the scale of her achievements

For Italian sources see

the Biography in Treccani

Carlo Vandi (Bologna d. 1768)
Portrait of Laura Bassi
c 1750
Oil on canvas
Sala dello zodiaco e delle stagioni, Museo di Palazzo Poggi, Bologna

Laura Maria Caterina Bassi (29 November 1711 – 20 February 1778) was an Italian scientist, the first woman in the world to earn a university chair in a scientific field of studies. She received a doctoral degree from the University of Bologna in May 1732, only the third academic qualification ever bestowed on a woman by a European university, and the first woman to earn a professorship in physics at a university in Europe. She was the first woman to be offered an official teaching position at a university in Europe

She was described as "the woman who understood Newton"

She was supported strongly by the Church and in particular by the then Archbishop of Bologna,Prospero Lambertini, later Pope Benedict XIV. Bologna was of course part of the Papal States

Of Bassi it was said:
„Every day she holds public debates in her house, attended by those who are in the mood for discussion, and she fears nobody, and frequently someone, who is not afraid of her, leaves very bewildered and with their horns flattened.‟ (Giampietro Zanotti, writer and sculptor)
An early  Italian  prototype of Margaret Thatcher !

Anna Manzolini 1714 - 1774
Wax portrait model of herself by the artist showing her dissecting a human brain 
Museo di Palazzo Poggi, Bologna
Source: Scienza a Due Voci  

Anna Morandi Manzolini (21 January 1714 – 9 July 1774) was an internationally known anatomist and anatomical wax modeler, as lecturer of anatomical design at the University of Bologna.

On the death of her husband in 1755, she became professor of anatomy Knowledge of her talent in moulding anatomical models spread throughout Europe and she was invited to the court of Catherine II of Russia as well as other royal courts.

The British Royal Society elected her a member and invited her to lecture in London

Maria Pellegrina Amoretti (1756 - 1787)

Maria Pellegrina Amoretti (1756 - 1787) was the third woman in Italy to graduate first from Padua and then Bologna and was the first woman to teach at a University

She was a jurist of international repute and her thesis was on the Roman Law of gifts

Her graduation attracted international attention as can be seen from this book in the Internet Archive: Laurea della signora M. Pellegrina Amoretti cittadina d'Oneglia

There is a fresco of the event in the Cathedral here

Unfortunately she died very young at the age of 31 before her great talent could be fully manifest

Portrait of Clotilde Tambroni
Biblioteca dell'Archiginnasio di Bologna, Italy

Clotilde Tambroni (Bologna, 29 June 1758 – Bologna 2 June 1817), was an Italian philologist, linguist and poet. She was a professor in the Greek language at the University of Bologna in 1793–1798, and a professor in Greek and literature in 1800–1808

Here is her elegy in honour of Bodoni

When the French armies invaded Northern Italy and imposed the Cisalpine Republics, she (as well as Galvani) refused for religious reasons to take the oath of loyalty and was deprived of her chair

The selfless and courageous work of women in the Church will be celebrated  in the Vatican for International Women’s Day.

The few biographies of illustrious and talented women  illustrates that contrary to modern belief the Church has fostered in times gone by the talents of gifts of women in particular in Spain, Northern Italy and other areas where it has had influence

If they are not as well known as they should be, then that is the fault of society in general as well as the Church

From looking at the biographies of the women listed above, a number of questions arise:
Why and how did such women come to the fore at this particular time and at the same time as managing to adhere to the tenets of the then Catholic faith (rather than despite it) ? 
Was this resurgence in the role of women a limited phenomenon or was it more widespread ? (The evidence is that it was probably more widespread but the necessary study and scholarship has not been undertaken) 
Why did the role of women not increase thereafter and indeed would appear to have been snuffed out shortly thereafter and the roles of Bassi and the others forgotten until further advances were made about one hundred years later ? 
Or is it a coincidence that these tender shoots in the rise of the influence of women in Western Europe were along with other institutions apparently trampled underfoot by the Napoleonic armies which swept across and conquered Europe in the aftermath of the French Revolution ? In this connection the biography of Clotilde Tambroni seems instructive

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