Women’s Participation in the Renaissance Period
Sometimes the term “Renaissance” is understood as a period of rapid and intense cultural, literal and scientific development that replaced a long era of spiritual and creative stagnation. It is considered that it began in Florence, Italy, in the 14th century. In addition, some scholars relate this term to the revival of ideals and values of the ancient culture that began in the early XIV century. The culture of this period has an enormous spiritual value. In the Renaissance, foundations of deep spiritual society were established.
In the Middle Ages, the woman was regarded as a “repository of evil”. One had to avoid and insult her. However, only in the Renaissance period, the attitude to the woman had changed drastically. In this period a woman is a lover, wife and mother. Moreover, she is an object of worship. Isabella d’Este was one of the leading women of the Italian Renaissance. Besides founding a school for young ladies and teaching there arts and fashion, she also participated very actively in Italian politics. Thus, she is called the “first lady of the Renaissance”. Another rather powerful woman is Catherine de Medici. She was a queen of France from 1547 until 1559 and made a great impact on the French culture.
Elizabeth I, also known as Elizabeth, was a queen regnant of England and Ireland. She established an English Protestant church. She is also known for Elizabeth era. During her reign, she made a huge impact on English drama. William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe are world-known playwrights of Elizabeth era.
Mary of Guise was another rather powerful woman of the Renaissance period. She was a reagent of Scotland from 1554 to 1560.
Saint Teresa of Ávila was a great Roman Catholic saint and Carmelite Order reformer. She was canonized in 1622. Moreover, she was named a Doctor of the Church (Trager, 1994, p. 115).
There were also some prominent Italian women poets like Gaspara Stampa and Laura Battifera. Lavinia Fontana, Sofanisba Anguissola and Marietta Robusti were popular portrait painers. Maddelana Casulana was a great composer and singer.
Many painters of the Renaissance period praised women in their works. For example, Leonardo da Vinci’s the most popular pictures include “Lady with an Ermine”, “Madonna with a Flower”, “Madonna Litta” and “La Gioconda”. Rafael also painted many women, and his most prominent pictures are “Florentine Madonna”, “Sistine Madonna” and “Conestabile Madonna”.
Artists of the Renaissance period portrayed not only ordinary women in their pictures but also Madonna. Great painters created their own images of the saint woman, who appeared in front of the public.
Renaissance women were also obliged to work. Usually, they worked in or near their homes. Many of them were involved in family business or even run their own. A good example is Katherina Bischoff Berg Gerlach, who founded printing and established a publishing company. Furthermore, women of that period were responsible for breading domestic animals, brewing ale, spinning and selling their products at the market. Women were also expected to be good family doctors and make up some medicines.
Thus, women played a very important role in the Renaissance period. The perception and attitude to the women have changed greatly. They became more independent and secure.