When most people think of the Renaissance in Europe, they usually don’t think a lot about the role of women. When first reading Mckay I was surprised about humanists attitudes about education for women. But when reading Mckay I later learned that there was a shared understanding in society that emphasized the exclusion of women from all public life. I soon realized that the pure destiny of females was almost entirely in the hands of the men. I began to ponder why it was that women had such little power in society, I learned from Kent, that the lives of women during the Renaissance were “strongly shaped by the ambivalent attitudes of a powerful church whose moral prescriptions were enforced not only in the confessional, but also by the laws of the state” (Kent 2001).
I instantly became interested while Kent’s article on women in Florence, when I found that there was a great emphasis on the public image and status of the humanists, and they highly preferred that the honor of men should reside as their public depiction and service. For those that have studied the importance of individualism and uniqueness for humanists, as I did, you will become quite interested in the fact that when reading Mckay, women during the Renaissance were denied of self-confidence and individualism, because “most humanists thought that a program of study that emphasized eloquence and action was not proper for women, for women were not to engage in public activities” (Mckay 414). (See Photo displayed below for a more interesting look at the women of the Renaissance).
When I began further reading Kent’s article, one thing that caught my eye was the fact that neither men nor women were essentially “free”. Even with the idea of individuality, there were still the demands of society, and people were highly structured by the demands around communities of family, state, and the very powerful church (Kent 2001).
I then began searching for an online article, but this was not as easy as I had thought. Finally, after stumbling upon good online book, I found great information on the ideas of both men and women in the Renaissance, by associate professor Lydan Warner. I found Warner’s descriptions on the idea of dignity to be very compelling. He described the dignity of man to come from the story of God’s creation of Adam and his place in the universe. I found when comparing Warner to Mckay, that even Mckay seemed to over exaggerate women’s little existence in the renaissance. I was shocked when Warner brought up the idea of humans tendency to have wicked or immoral behavior through things such as crime, prostitution, and drugs. Warner suggested that yes, women were not generally treated fair, or said to have had a “Renaissance,” but men were also not necessarily treated so much better, and they also had the same or more issues than women did. Both men and women had the issue of worthiness and honor within society. I came to realize than Mckay overemphasized the treatment of women, and when reading Warner I understood that, even though women were discriminated against during this time, some men also helped to defend women in their pursuit for success during the Renaissance. I found from both Mckay and Warner, that there were both statements for and against women. When looking over my sources, I believe that this so called “fascination” with men as well as women came from the people of the Renaissance’s obsession with status, individualism, and family.
In class we only read a small part of Mckay, and so to gain a fuller understanding of what Mckay perceived of gender in the Renaissance, I began to further inspect the book. I came across a couple pages on Christine de Pizan, a daughter and wife of very highly educated men with high positions. Reading more about her, I became easily interested when I figured out Christine de Pizan was one of the few women who received excellent education. I became even more intrigued when I realized during her life she decided to support her family solely through writing. Mckay described Christine’s lifestyle as “an unsual choice for anyone in this era before the printing press and unheard of for a woman” (Mckay 404). I found Christine’s ideas in her writing to be very brave and interesting. She pursed interesting ideas such as: why so many men have a negative view on women, as well as reasons for women to be involved in work. She carefully displayed pictures of virtuous images of women as well to show the importance of females.
In essence, I think that when discussing whether the women essentially were apart of the Renaissance, we can not exaggerate, but there is also not a clear source that shows that women were completely excluded from society, seeing that both men and women defended the rights of females.
“Christine de Pizan – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christine_de_Pizan>.
Kent, Dale. “Women Renaissance Florence.” Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Feb. 2012. <http://employees.oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/arth213/women_Ren_florence.html>.
Mckay , John P. . “A History of Western Society, Volume B: From Renaissance to 1815 – John P. McKay, Bennett D. Hill, John Buckler, Clare Haru Crowston, Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks – Google Books.” Google Books. N.p., 19 Oct. 2007. Web. 13 Feb. 2012. <http://books.google.com/books?id=p5EdejRMzkIC&dq=Mckay%20Western%20society%202010&source=gbs_similarbooks>.
Warner, Lyndan. “The ideas of man and woman in Renaissance France: print, rhetoric, and law – Lyndan Warner – Google Books.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2012. <http://books.google.com/books?id=3vuX0x3cfAwC&printsec=frontcover&dq=The+ideas+of+man+and+woman+in+renaissance&hl=en&sa=X&ei=anE5TnWJKeOiAK9mrWfBg&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=The%20ideas%20of%20man%20and%20woman%20in%20renaissance&f=false>.