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Women of the Renaissance (Women in Culture and Society) Paperback – December 15, 1991

ISBN-13: 978-0226436180 ISBN-10: 0226436187 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

King claims only to "visit" Renaissance women in their world, but she manages far more. She evaluates the evolution of Western European women's circumstances and their place in history. Although divided into three distinct chapters--Women in Families, Women in the Church, and finally Women in High Society--her narrative constantly correlates the status of the Renaissance woman to male society at large. She never allows the reader to lose sight of the larger historical picture, as she appraises evidence from the ninth to the 18th centuries. Even when immersing the reader in statistical data, the personalities of the period are not lost; King is dealing with real people and does so with sensitivity and purpose. The copious footnotes and extensive bibliography will aid scholars in pursuing any tangential avenue. This book is highly recommended for European history and women's studies collections in academic libraries.
- Claibourne G. Williams, Bluefield State Coll. Lib., W. Va.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Women in Culture and Society
  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (December 15, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226436187
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226436180
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #657,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Rush Mitchell on February 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
I was required to read this book for a History of the Renaissance 1300 course. Far from a dry text, I found this book to be an enlightening view into the roles of women in Renaissance society, the social mores and opinions that restricted them, and the many ways in which some circumvented society in order to express themselves (there is a lot more there than you think!). It is full of primary data, some of which is only available in Italian and other original languages, and translated for this book by the author. One who reads this book will come away with a more complete and well-rounded view of Renaissance women's lives, (at their best and their worst) and a greater respect for those who lived them. In response to the previous reviewer, and as a warning to those looking for an "easy read". This is an excellent source of fact-based material on the time period and its inhabiants, not a pre-digested, dime-tour of the Renaissance. But for those who are open to a little intellectual stimulation will find this a powerful, eye-opening experience worth their time.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Lynne Thornton on May 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
I was overwhelmed by the volumes of historical information in this book, but not so impressed by its organization. It would have benefited from a more chronological organization or some other means of keeping track of who was who and when and where they lived. The book is packed full of information, historical interest and the "voices" of women of the Renaissance. It is a great source for research, but give yourself lots of time to read it. The chapters are over long and the flow is not exactly the "page-turning" variety. Still it is a must read for students of women's history or the history of the Renaissance.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mark Lee on October 3, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's a real treat to come away from being compelled to read a book feeling that you got more, much more, than you had expected. This was a required text for an upper division college course I took.

Margaret King knows her stuff. I've studied the Renaissance in other classes, so had touched upon gender issues already, but King's work filled in many empty spaces. Her thesis is that although socially women didn't gain much (or even lost ground), something important happened within women's minds during the Renaissance.

Options were limited for women during fourteenth through seventeenth centuries. Roles were generally defined by men or faith (ostensibly controlled by men); wife, mother, celibate religious, spinster, witch. But even these categories, King shows, were full of complexities. Women, other than nuns, shouldn't be taught to read, rather spin and sew. Women couldn't be trusted with too much knowledge. Even the Greek term for "womb," hysteros, gave a clue to a woman's basic "hysteria." Often, women bought into this paradigm and were their own worst enemies.

But King shows that the scene was more complex than that. Some fathers taught daughters Latin, Greek, philosophy. Heretic nuns wrote private treatises from within the shelter of their cells. Men marvelled at living Amazons, such as Joan of Arc who walked the thin line between deification and devilment. Before Joan burned, Christine de Pizan wrote about a "City of Ladies" where femininity would be protected, and no man could cause hurt.

This is a beautiful book and should be read by historians, feminists, and anyone who loves to see flowers grow through cracks in inhospitable terrain.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ball State Grad-RMN on January 31, 2012
Format: Paperback
The title of this monograph well describes its subject: the lives of women during the Renaissance. However, Margaret L. King pays close attention to the roles available to women in the family, church, and high society. This text's intended audience is the general academic community. This book's purpose is to clarify the nature of women's lives during Renaissance.
King's primary thesis is that women did not have a Renaissance. The realms of family, church, and high culture all relegated Renaissance women to subservience in some way. In the family, women were essentially their husband or father's property. In most cases, the church viewed women in a similar fashion. Conversely, in high culture, Renaissance women had a chance of wielding power and receiving education. King relies on diaries, religious texts, trial transcripts, medical literature, and several personal letters to support this argument.
This book examines the Renaissance, defined by the author as the period from 1350 to 1650. Subjects discussed include the cultural, economic, and political circumstances of women. The first chapter is titled "Daughters of Eve: Women in the Family." Here, King asserts that Eve's punishment in Genesis epitomizes the lives of Renaissance women. According to this story, the punishment for Eve's sin is that all women have to endure labor pain and remain subservient to men. Similarly, a Renaissance woman's worth is dependent on her ability to produce several children in succession and remain submissive to her male family members. King goes on to discuss a woman's progression from daughter, to wife, and eventually to a widow. She ends this chapter by discussing the woman as a worker.
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