It has long been held that the Renaissance began in Florence, Italy in the 14th century mostly because of the social and civic uniqueness of the city at that time. The Renaissance was a cultural movement that saw the rise of literature, science, art, religion, and politics. It was an intellectual transformation that bridged the Middle Ages and the Modern era.
Women in the Renaissance were primarily the domestic caretakers of the children and the household. They were subordinate inferiors of men. Only a few wealthy women escaped the tasks of making clothes, the overall maintenance of the home, and production of food. In the Middle Ages master craftsmen worked out of the family home. The women of the house not only did their womanly chores but also took on responsibilities in the family business. In the 13th century, the family business was removed from the home to larger shops in a different location. It’s during this time that crafts became a man’s trade thus removing women from participating. There were fathers and husbands who stood to profit from the careers of their daughters and wives were didn’t oppose their participation. It wasn’t a common situation but it did happen. Historians believe women filled a greater variety of professional roles, had more responsibilities, and made more of an economic contribution during the Middle Ages rather than the Renaissance.
Like the Middle Ages, women of the Renaissance were denied all political rights and considered legally subject to their husbands. A woman was controlled by her parents throughout her childhood, and then handed directly into the hands of a husband, whom she most likely had not chosen herself, and who would exercise control over her until her death or his. Unmarried women were not emancipated but lived under the rule of a male relative or in a convent where she could become a nun, the only profession allowed to her.
Some of the great women of the Renaissance didn’t see boundaries but saw opportunities. They were women who influenced politics, literature and the art worlds. It is women like them that should be honored and remembered. To quote Heather Formby of the Financial Mail, “Women can be powerful if they have a passion, a mission and maybe even a rage.”