Depending on a woman^Òs role or class in society, she could be restricted or praised by her words and actions. As in almost any civilization, money brings certain advantages, the greatest one of the Renaissance times being education. The upper class women were taught that silence towards and obligation to their husbands was considered proper. Eloquence was equivalent to silence in the male frame of mind. Keeping with the theme of male dominance, it has been said that "Woman^Òs attempt to rule is an act of treason." (2) Any act of liberation was seen as a violation against God, otherwise the people they called "men" (2). The speech of a woman has been compared to "the naked of her limbs" (4) inferring the spoken thought of a woman with any basis in intellect would be shameful, embarrassing or something even to look down upon. Therefore, because any outward act of intelligence was a "violation," this could be seen as a distinct limitation.
But it has also been said that a woman could "speak very elegantly and she was able in all those languages to answer ambassadors on the sudden." (1) Although, it was only being applied to Queen Elizabeth I, the statement can also be applied to other such greats in the past like Queen Isabella of Spain, Anne of Brittany-Queen of Charles VIII, and of the mid 1440^Òs- Isotta Nogarola (5). The idea of a woman^Òs intelligence was not completely denounced in Renaissance times; everyone knew that it did exist, but the people went out about repressing it in such a way that it was viewed by the majority of people as something disgraceful and disreputable.
Within the homes, for upper class women, some of the problems as mentioned above remained, but where not as severe always. Moving on, the upper class did have some leverage when it came to their inner family circle. For example, the wealthier families paid nurses to breast feed their children. But, then again, because of this, the wealthier women bore more children, each time risking their lives; for the morality rate of childbirth was 10% in all women. The age range for the wealthy women to have children fell somewhere in adolescence while the range for the poorer and merchant classes was their mid-twenties.
One of the most important thing when it came to raising a child was to make sure that he or she had all his or her needs fulfilled, most importantly, once again, being necessity of knowledge in social skills and humanitarian studies. The poorer and merchant classes could not afford a formal education but men and women alike were trained in some kind of trade. The wealthier families could afford tutors. Reading was stressed, but the concept of silence and eloquence being interchangeable was still stressed among women. Yet after understanding the significance of a quality education, the two main goals of a woman^Òs education were still to develop the belief that male was superior and to master the tools needed to raise a family properly.
Even still, it was difficult to obtain this kind of quality education in the humanistic studies that so few women fulfilled. According to Laura Cereta, "^ÅKnowledge is not given as a gift, but (is gained) with diligence."*. The ability to learn is in all women. She continues to re-enforce that women have not banded together strongly enough in their fight for a quality schooling when she states," (But) where we (women) should be forceful we are (too often) devious; where we should be confident we are insecure. (Even worse), we are content with our condition."* . Women have not been strong enough in their fight for knowledge even though Cereta clearly points out throughout her writings they had the definite mental capability. It was society that hindered them.
Continuing with the motif of hindrance, because society limited women in a number of ways in getting a quality course of study, many entered the convent. This way, they could receive a quality education for free. Both upper and merchant class families would put their daughters in convents for one basic reason; they could not afford to marry both daughters because the dowries of each would be lessened and not as "attractive" when making marriage arrangements. Though this seemed to be an advantageous way of learning, it did have its faults. According to Christen de Pisan, "Some say that clerks or priests have written your works for you for they could not come from feminine intelligence^Å" (7). As once can see, it was not only in the "social" aspect that women have been neglected the recognition of mind, but also in the church where one would conceive respect is almost obligatory. But then again, the church^Òs prestige in general was declining.
Also, in the convent, they were forced to practice chastity. Women who bore illegitimate children not only faced the banishment and bring disgrace upon their families, but taxation, imprisonment and banishment. Women had a multitude of opinions about the convents. Some saw it as a "house of detention," but others looked at this more positively. As I stated above this was one of the few places that a women could receive a meritorious education, mainly with a focus on the humanities. In the 10c, a woodcut by Alfred D^× rer, he shows a 10c nun giving self-written Latin satires to Emperor Otto I (15). "They were recovered and published in 1501 by the German humanist Conrad Celtis" (15). In some rare instances, women did become recognized.
For those women who were not forced to go into the convent and wished to work, they were also presented with a number of possibilities and restrictions. Like the upper Renaissance women, their family situation(s) were equal in such the man was head. The major difference between the two classes has to be their daily tasks. Not only did the merchant-urban class have to raise a family, but they also held trade jobs. Many women were butchers, iron workers, and a collection of diversified types of artisans. Nevertheless, women were not allowed to teach others their trade. One would say that a woman probably was not competent enough to teach it to others. But if she was competent enough to learn it, why would one doubt that she could teach it? The last difference that occurred with merchant women was that they did earn some respect in their work place, but it would never be publicly recognized.
Society, through the ages, looked at women as a group, like an other discriminated group, not as people of manifold capabilities. Although this view of women as a minority is continued into today^Òs society, one could say that some progress has been made in the aspects of education and occupations.