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Book Review: The Women of Renaissance Florence by Richard Trexler

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  1. Introduction
  2. Celibacy in the renaissance: The nuns of Florence
  3. Florentine prostitution in the fifteenth century: Patrons and clients
  4. Conclusion

The Women of Renaissance Florence, Power and Dependence in Renaissance Florence is a collection of three essays by Richard Trexler that give the reader insight into the experience of women in Florentine society by examining three major groups of women; nuns, prostitutes, and widows. Trexler is a Professor of History at the State University of New York at Binghampton, and has an impressive resume of fellowships and publications. Trexler is also known as one of the leaders in the study of ritual in a historical context.

[...] Trexler's research shows that prostitutes came from all areas surrounding Florence to the city, but Florentine women most likely went to Rome to become prostitutes. Many also came from outside Italy, from places such as Slovenia, Spain, France, Poland, and Germany. Men also came, but women could arrive alone and choose a pimp once they arrive if they wished. Once here, the prostitutes lived in the main brothel located between the old market and the Baptistery of San Giovanni. They also were located in the Alley of the Cows, where individual hovels were owned by prostitutes or rented out by Florentine families, some of them fairly high ranking. [...]


[...] Lastly, Trexler examined the resilience of the pimps and prostitutes, commenting on their search for stability. Some prostitutes tried to stabilize their existence by requiring their pimps to take an oath pledging faithfulness to them, which created a relationship that could be severed at a later date. There were also various associations that one could join for support, including the confraternity of pimps sponsored by the church, the guild of innkeepers, which the people running hostels used for the activities of prostitutes could join, and the convertite, where repentant prostitutes could go. [...]

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