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. [...]
[...] As more nuns came in at the end of the quattrocento and cinquento, changes in the demography of the convents occurred. Effects included more nuns who “belonged to well established families”, but who were not necessarily from the richest families (15). Nunneries recruited girls from families who did not play a central economic role because richer girls were more desirable as wives because of their high dowry, and wealthy families could afford to dower more than one daughter. Lesser affluent families would commonly put together a sizable dowry for one daughter, and send other daughters to the convent. [...]
[...] By 1511 these new forces and attitudes resulted in legislation requiring a certain type of dress for prostitutes so that they were distinguishable. Further, “strict laws of residence were not long in coming, and a new era in the public attitude toward prostitution had begun” (64). In this essay, Trexler frames his argument around several main sources. Trexler examined 1436 roll call of the contingent”, as well as the Book of Sentences which recorded the cases heard by the Onesta. This last document gave information for the years 1411-1523, and “listed, in addition to crimes [...]
[...] Trexler also describes the type of nuns found in nunneries, including the suore, “professed nuns” who had “taken the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience” and had been “consecrated by a bishop” (12). These sisters were followed by the converse, who were from more rustic backgrounds and were sisters who participated in the spiritual benefits of the convent” (12). Next were novices, who were “members of the community who either were on probation, or were professed but awaiting Episcopal consecration” (13). [...]
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