Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences

Italian Women and the Virtues of the Alphabet, 1860-1940

 La lettrice, Federico Faruffini, 1864-65

A lecture by Prof. Simonetta Soldani, University of Florence to mark the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy. Organized in collaboration with the Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Dublin.

Simonetta Soldani teaches Contemporary History at the University of Florence and co-ordinates the Doctoral Programme in History there. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the contemporary history journal "Passato e presente" and is among the founders of the Italian Society for Women Historians (Società italiana delle storiche). She works principally on European history in the “long nineteenth century”, with a particular interest in the political, social and cultural innovations produced at European level by the affirmation of the principle of nationhood and by the construction of a society fashioned on the needs and the imaginaire of a rapidly increasing lower and middle class society, before and after the revolutionary caesura of 1848. In an Italy which tended to confine women – at the level of rights, practical choices and cultural models – within an increasingly suffocating “private sphere”, the opportunities created by the need to develop mass literacy constituted the opportunity and the instrument for a true revolution of customs. The need to have recourse to a growing number of women to fill the role of primary teachers, given the shortage of men prepared and/or available to do so and the impossibility of falling back on the clergy due to the conflictual relationship between the new State and the Church, led to the teacher training institutions being taken over by the most secularized families and those who were least willing to entrust their daughters to nuns who were alien or even hostile to the new Kingdom. The alphabet, then, was the starting point of an upward spiral which pushed a growing number of middle-class girls to measure up to a post-primary education experienced as emancipation from ignorance, prejudice and superstition, and as a precious, immaterial “dowry”, to be spent both on the matrimonial market and on the labour market, with lasting consequences both for State schools (open since 1881 to all girls who wanted access to them) and for the day schools, boarding schools and convent schools run by nuns, which were forced, if they wanted to succeed, to follow the model of the State’s offerings. For further reading on the topics of her lectures in Cork, see the following publications: L'educazione delle donne. Scuola e cultura nella nascita dell'Italia contemporanea (Milano 1989); Fare gli italiani. Scuola e cultura nell'Italia contemporanea (Bologna 1993, con G. Turi); Donne e giornalismo (Milano 2004, con S. Franchini); Il Risorgimento delle donne, in A.M. Banti e P. Ginsborg (eds), Storia d'Italia. Annali, vol. 22, Il Risorgimento (Torino 2007); Prima della repubblica. Le italiane e l'avventura della cittadinanza, in N.M. Filippini e A. Scattigno (a cura di), Una democrazia incompiuta (Milano 2007); Chequered Routes to Secondary Education: Italy, in J. Albisetti, J. Goodman, R. Rogers, (eds), Women’s Secondary Education, New York – London, 2010; L'Italia al femminile, in G. Sabbatucci, V. Vidotto (a cura di), L'unificazione italiana, Roma 2011. Da pochi mesi è uscito, a sua cura, L'Italia alla prova dell'Unità (Milano 2011).

Category: Public Lectures and Seminars: Arts Celtic Studies and Social Sciences
Time: 18:00-19:00 (6-7pm)
Location: West Wing 9, UCC
Target Audience: All welcome
Admission Price: € Free
Contact: Dr Mark Chu
+353 (0)21 490 2335/2486

<< Back

Events Calendar Home

University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

College Road, Cork T12 K8AF