The Humanistic Tradition Baldassare Castiglione’s “The Book of the Courtier”, gives us a glimpse into the life of the Renaissance woman and the limitations imposed by society, which it deemed normal. Women were viewed and treated as inferior and unable humans while men were encouraged into Machiavellianism, which was to be strong, hard, sure of themselves. This has since changed whereby, contemporary society views such limitations as intolerable rendering them an insult to the rights of women both at an individual and group level.
The women of the renaissance period had to contend with limitations imposed by the society they lived in at the time. For example, early marriages were a normal phenomenon whereby, young teenage girls were married off to older mature men especially amidst the upper class families where marriage was a tool of reinforcing allegiances and expanding the family’s wealth (US History). In addition, only women from rich families had access to any form of education. However, it is important to note that gender differences predetermined the type of education one received. for example, scientific academic disciplines were only offered to males.
In spite of these dire circumstances, some women remained determined to educate themselves. One such woman was Lavina Fontana (1552-1614) who rose to become a professional and highly sought after painter for the very rich. Her expertise transcended over her husband who was also a fellow painter. It was highly unusual at the time for a woman to be both married, a mother and working (Castiglione).
Luretia Marrinella was to set a new standard for women as she neither saw herself as devious nor frivolous but as serious with the ability to think. She defied the negative perception that women were slow and soft, a presumption held even by humanists such as Alberti who the society considered to be ahead of the zeitgeist (spirit of the times) for they lobbied for equality. Marrinella, a poet wrote great quality pieces as she mourned her dead husband. This set her apart from other women in the society (Castiglione).
The achievements of most modern influential women would seem unreal for women living in the predominantly controlled masculine culture in the past. Modern new day feminists like Gloria Steinem have taken fighting for women’s rights to a higher level through advocacy, politics, media, leadership, and of course the age-old art of writing in journals and newspaper columns (Marcello 5). Alice Walker popular for her novel “The Color Purple” is an activist and author who fights for women’s rights and the poor in society (White 14-15).
Maya Angelou was a renowned poet, writer and activist as well as an award winner. What made Maya stand out was her rise from prostitution, pimp, and a nightclub dancer into an accomplished and respectable woman of international acclaim (Glover 67). Billie Jean King, a professional number one tennis prayer dedicates her wins to all women (Starr & King 106). Oprah Winfrey is a well accomplished television producer and host with many awards to her name and is renowned for her philanthropic works and her activism for women’s rights (Mowbray 17). In their different fields, these influential feminists continue to fight against stereotypes that adversely affect women. therefore, hindering them from reaching their full potential.
Castiglione, Baldassare. The Book of the Courtier. Italy: Aldine Press, 1528. Print.
Glover, Terry. “Maya Angeluo.” Ebony December 2009: 67. Web.
Marcello, Patricia. Gloria Steinem: A Biography. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2004. Print.
Mowbray, Nicole. “Oprahs Path to Power.” The Guardian (UK) 2 March 2003. Web.
Starr, Cynthia and Billie Jean King. We Have Come a Long Way: The Story of Womens Tennis. New York: McGraw-Hill , 1988. Print.
US History. “US History: Pre-colonial to the New Millenium.” 2008. Modern Feminism. Web. 25 September 2014.
White, Evelyn C. Alice Walker: A Life. New York: Norton, 2004. Print.