By Lenia Constantinou
According to Paul Grendler, the conservative, clerical pedagogical theorist Silvio Antoniano (1540-1603) reflected on women's educational status in Renaissance Italy in one of his written works, claiming that " a girl (should not) learn pleading and writing poetry'; the vain sex must not reach too high A girl should attend to sewing, cooking, and other female activities, leaving to men what was theirs". Apparently, this was the common-held view concerning women's education during that time. Although women were actually encouraged to literacy, their subservient social role as wives and mothers could not allow them to learn as much as men did (Grendler, 1989).
Women could not have possibly been employed or held a public office. Any attainable employment did not involve independent thought; matters concerning the ruling and well-being of society were left to men (Grendler, 1995). Therefore, they were encouraged to receive the kind of education that would prove useful for their primarily domestic role. It was not enough, therefore, for them to learn how to read and write; they had to hammer their knowledge into a matrix of virtue and piety. The development and praise of literacy, the advances in printing and consequently the widespread introduction of books to the public and finally the Counter-Reformation, were factors that influenced the development of female education (Grendler, 1989). What I would like to argue in my paper is that Catholicism acted as a medium for the development of the literacy of women in Renaissance Italy.
Within the Catholic church arose the need to draw people back to conservative Catholic traditions. This was, on a certain level, a response to the Protestant Reformation and to less conservative Humanist ideals that were spreading throughout Italy. After the Council of Trent, a lot of emphasis was placed on the development of Christian... [continues]
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