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Catherine Lawless (2003)

Women on the margins: the ‘beloved’ and the ‘mistress’ in Renaissance Florence

In: Pawns or Players, ed. by Christine E. Meek & Catherine Lawless, pp. 111-130, Four Courts Press, Dublin a.o. Studies on Medieval and Early Modern Women, vol. 3.

Lawless expresses basic thoughts on the role of the woman as daughter, wife, mother, widow etc. as it is defined in relation to the social environment. She discusses in this article the situation of women in Florence in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance who lived in relationships outside marriage and family life, and investigates, how they were threatened by social exclusion. Besides the chapters “The Beloved” (p. 114-118), “Mistresses” (p. 118 f.), “Women married to someone other than their lover” (p. 119 f.), “Nuns” (p. 120-122), “Mistresses of the clergy” (p. 122), “Women from the ranks of the lower guilds and peasants” (p. 122-124) and “Life after being a mistress” (p. 129 f.) the author also deals with slaves and servants (p. 124-128).

Female slaves were exposed to the sexual desires of their master and other male persons. Numerous children who apparently descend from slaves can be made out in the city's baptismal records. “Although records rarely state that these children are illegitimate, the lack of the father's name would seem to indicate it. The same can be said where children are identified as the offspring of a 'serva' or a 'balia'” (p. 125 f.). These slaves weren’t master of their fate and that of their children. Many of those children born from slaves were left at the foundling hospitals of Florence.

Florence Italy late Middle Ages Renaissance mistresses foundlings sexuality
by Christine Breckler last modified 2007-04-03 10:55

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