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Filippo Sani University of Sassari, Italy

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Abstract

In light of the debates on the “feminisation of religion” that have animated historiography, during the Restoration one can distinguish two educational strategies towards the education of women. On the one hand, we can make out a symbolic system in which women, whether religious or married, fulfilled values that the male part of society seemed to deny or have forgotten. The same period, especially through the social action of the new religious congregations, saw an activity and a visibility that could not be attributed to a political dimension, but rather to a pre-political one. The relationship between women and the sacred conferred legitimacy on the reclusion of women, that is, the need for a confinement which constituted the physical and symbolic element of the continuity between the education given in monastic institutions and that of many nineteenth-century boarding schools for young women. Women's action outside the classroom belonged more to the sphere of the symbolic than to that of the useful, and, in any case, were founded on an essentially individual type of relationship.

Abstract

In light of the debates on the “feminisation of religion” that have animated historiography, during the Restoration one can distinguish two educational strategies towards the education of women. On the one hand, we can make out a symbolic system in which women, whether religious or married, fulfilled values that the male part of society seemed to deny or have forgotten. The same period, especially through the social action of the new religious congregations, saw an activity and a visibility that could not be attributed to a political dimension, but rather to a pre-political one. The relationship between women and the sacred conferred legitimacy on the reclusion of women, that is, the need for a confinement which constituted the physical and symbolic element of the continuity between the education given in monastic institutions and that of many nineteenth-century boarding schools for young women. Women's action outside the classroom belonged more to the sphere of the symbolic than to that of the useful, and, in any case, were founded on an essentially individual type of relationship.

Introduction

In light of the debates on the “feminisation of the sacred” developed by historians since C. Langlois's work, Le catholicisme au féminin (Caffiero, 1994; Langlois, 1985, 2016, in particular chapters XIX and XX), two strategies for the education of women can be identified during the Restoration period. On the one hand, we find a symbology according to which the woman, whether she had taken religious vows or was married, lived according to values that the male part of society seemed to have rejected or forgotten. At the same time, especially through the charitable activities of the new religious congregations, women gained a role and visibility that did not belong to a political dimension, but rather to a pre-political one. In both cases, the ancient infirmitas and fragilitas sexus justified the position of the woman who, when not subject to the command of her father or husband, had to submit to the religious discipline of a female community. In this sense, the relationship between the woman and the sacred legitimised the placing of women in enclosed environments, that is, the need for their confinement, which was physically and symbolically the common thread between the education imparted in monastic institutions and that delivered by many 19th-century boarding schools for young women.

In Tuscany, women's education remained tied to the memory and legacy of the 1785 reform of the educational institutions called conservatori (see Fantappiè, 1995; Sani, 2001, 2012).1 This reform launched by Grand Duke Peter Leopold, helped to fuel the “Leopold myth” among “moderate” Tuscan intellectuals in the first half of the 19th century.

Continuity with Leopoldo's reformism was enshrined in the Concordato intorno al ripristinamento degli Ordini religiosi in Toscana (Concordat for the restoration of Religious Orders in Tuscany), ratified by the Church and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany on December 4, 1815. Article XVIII of this document provided that even cloistered monasteries could devote themselves to the education of girls and open public schools for the benefit of any social class. In 1819, a commission of representatives of the Tuscan and papal governments produced the Relazione della commissione sul ripristinamento degli ordini religiosi al Granduca (Report to the Grand Duke of the Commission on the Restoration of Religious Orders) by which the office of public schooling was approved for 23 women's monasteries, while a list of thirteen restored conservatori had been established by the Rescript of June 21, 1816 (See Sani, 2019, 285–286).

Some of the Leopoldine conservatori had been shut down before 1790 or during the Napoleonic period, but some were reopened and entrusted in many cases to oblates, as prescribed by the grand-ducal provisions, without however excluding other regulatory arrangements. For example, in 1841, in Anghiari, the nuns of the Monastery of S. Maria Maddalena, an institute that was reopened after the Napoleonic era, provided teaching in the town's public schools free of charge, under an agreement concluded on 16 September 1816 with the Grand Duchy's competent office, the Segreteria del Regio Diritto.2 In Florence, at the advent of the Restoration, the female teachers of the establishment of S. Pier Martire in S. Felice in Piazza became Dominican tertiary oblates. By order (Rescritto) of the Grand Duke of 18 December 1817, they were obliged to establish two separate schools, one free, the other charging a modest fee. The same order also provided for the boarding of female pupils seeking temporary lodging or sent by higher authorities. The government also allowed the boarding of more girls according to the capacity and means of the educational establishment (Sani, 2010, 589).

Female educational establishments

In the 1820s, Tuscany had a fair number of female educational establishments, which differed as to fees and type of teaching according to the social class at which they were aimed. In 1819, the provision of public schooling was entrusted to 23 nuns' convents (Sani, 2019, 286), while in 1836, Luigi Serristori's Statistica del Granducato di Toscana (Statistics of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany) counted 43 girls' institutes, including two convents and the Educandato della SS. Annunziata, founded in 1824 and based on the Napoleonic model of the Maison d’éducation de Saint-Denis (Franchini, 1998, 171 in reference to Serristori, 1837, 43–45).3 In addition to these institutions, there were public primary schools and hundreds of private schools, all very different from each other, which the 1841 report described in detail.

In addition to the Institute of SS. Annunziata, in 1841, the Florentine educational institutions that housed the girls from wealthy families - Tuscan and not - were the conservatorio of the Montalve,4 and that of Angiolini (see Calafati & Teodori, 2006), which were followed, decreasing in symbolic capital, by the conservatories of the Conventino (founded by the Verrazzano family in 1700), Mantellate di Chiarito, S. Agata and Giovacchine. These institutes were very different from each other as to the time and circumstances of their establishment as well as their financial resources and fee-charging system (Franchini, 1998, 178). But one element they all shared was their emphasis on the religious dimension, which involved the requirement for the girls to attend and participate in numerous religious services. This practice, followed even by avowedly “lay” institutions such as SS. Annunziata (Sani, 2019, 291), in some cases were carried quite far, as in the conservatory of S. Stefano di Chiusi, which was reprimanded by the government for the “flaw” of “spending perhaps too much time in pious practices and exercises. The consequence of this is that quite often teaching gives way to religious matters”.5

In many conservatories there was a strong tendency to push the oblates, where present, towards a monastic interpretation of their role.6 This orientation was particularly felt where the nuns and oblates lived in the same building. One example was the institute of S. Chiara in Castiglion Fiorentino where, in 1817, the Poor Clares lived together with the oblates and the latter, far from being teachers not tied to religious discipline, observed the Rule of the Third Order of Saint Francis (Gallorini, 1991, 29).

In other areas of the Grand Duchy, among the institutes catering for wealthy families, sometimes foreign, we should mention the conservatorio of S. Raimondo, founded in the early 17th century as a refuge for abandoned girls, exposed by definition to serious dangers. In 1674, the abandoned girls not belonging to the noble class were separated from the nobles and placed in the former monastery of St. Jerome. During Leopold's era, S. Raimondo became a conservatorio for the education of noble girls and remained so during the Napoleonic era (throughout which the oblates remained in the building) and after the Restoration (Moscadelli, 1988; Rosa, 2003).

Since 1786, the conservatorio of S. Niccolò di Prato had been destined to the “Education of Ladies” on the model of the Montalve.7 In 1841, this institute, run by a community of oblates who, however, wore “the habit of the Dominican nuns”, held considerable assets, “the income from which exceeded the costs of the religious community and of three free places reserved for girls from Prato and abroad by appointment of the Prince, and any additional costs that may be necessary for the maintenance of the girls, who pay a fee of 5 scudi, often reduced in the past by a few liras, in order to help the families, especially those living in Prato, take advantage of the convenience of this educational institute”.8

The transition from the Enlightenment-inspired reformism of Peter Leopold to the Restoration saw continuity in the practice of confining the girls, in the name of preserving their honour, which remained closely linked to the religious dimension (Franchini, 1998, 166–167; Sani, 2019, 289–290). Secondly, the education of higher-class girls continued to be essentially restricted to the skills intended for the narrow bounds of family life, with a focus on the arts d'agrément (drawing, vocal and instrumental music, dancing) (Sani, 2019, 293–294) and needlework. The expensive theatrical performances which, in keeping with the tradition of the Maison Royale of Saint Cyr, were staged at the Institute of SS. Annunziata, referred to the symbolic spectacle of the Grand Duke's munificence; however, those shows were often denounced as immoral (Franchini, 1993, 273).

Moreover, L’éducation progressive (3 volumes, 1828–1838) by Albertine-Adrienne Necker de Saussure and the posthumous De l’éducation (1824) by Mme Campan, two works well known in Tuscany in the first half of the 19th century,9 fully upheld this view.10

“Such then is the destination of women in this world. According to us, they are called to improve private life within the limits imposed by the laws of God. This is applicable to all situations, poor or rich, married or single. Women have influence on private life; the happiness of families depends much on them. We say private life, as distinguished from political life, for we do not mean to convey the idea that the action of women should be restricted to the interior of their homes; we believe it, on the contrary, designed to produce results extensively beneficial – but their influence is always of the same nature. It is to souls, considered separately, that they are to address their efforts – their influence concerns the individual, and the relations he sustains to those around him. Free from any direct relation with the public, they are so from any engagement with the mass. It is their lot to be always subject to a single chief – the father or the husband is their ruler – so society and their affections have decreed” (Necker de Saussure, 1838, 49; Necker de Saussure, 1844, 34).

Domestic solitude and needlework

Women's action in the world belonged more to the realm of the symbolic than to that of the useful, and, in any case, was based on a largely individual relationship. In both Necker de Saussure and M.me Campan, the function of women was expressed through a particular link with the sacred (Rogers, 2005, 27–30). In the case of Madame Campan, the role of women was exalted exclusively within the confines of the home: “A sentiment truly national will lead them to regard their own homes as the only theatre of their glory, and public morals will then soon shew the immense steps made by social order towards a better state of things” (Campan, 1824, 4; Campan, 1825, 287). This prospect of domestic solitude (and confinement) enhanced the role of artistic skills both to meet the demands of the matrimonial market and to aid the development of the personality of the wife/mother (Sani, 2019, 292–293; Campan, 1824, 178–181).

With regard to needlework, the exquisitely post-Tridentine role it played in female education in the modern age has been amply highlighted by historians (Pellegrin, 1999; Plebani, 2015). As it is well known, while in some cases this activity was linked to economic circuits,11 in others it had only an explicit symbolic value. Needlework encompassed a wide range of skills, expertise, and especially materials, depending on the social context in which it was practiced. At the lowest levels, in nineteenth-century conservatories, these activities were limited to knitting, sewing and embroidery, while in the educational institutions for well-to-do girls the situation was quite different. According to the 1841 inquiry, at the Institute of S. Giulia, known as Paradisino, in Livorno, the girls were divided into 39 “First-class pupils,” 12 “Artists or Second class pupils,” and 262 “Miserabili”. In this institution, the six courses on gold embroidery, silk embroidery, tulle embroidery, lacework, sewing and knitting were entrusted to as many teachers,12 while at the Conservatorio S. Niccolò of Prato the skills of “gold embroidery, silk embroidery, wool embroidery, lacework, blonde embroidery, and white sewing” were taught by three teachers.13

The other courses were organised in line with the general education for semi-cultured individuals (Italian language and literature, history, geography, French, arithmetic) which, in the modern age, was the parallel of the courses in the humanities given in the male colleges. Although Necker de Saussure had recommended that Latin be included in the school syllabi for girls (Necker de Saussure, 1838, 160–161), as late as the mid-19th century, studying this subject continued to be a privilege reserved for boys. As shown by the 1841 inquiry, Latin was taught only in the boarding school of the Conservatorio di S. Chiara in Castiglion Fiorentino14 and at the Conservatorio di S. Raimondo in Siena.15

This was a consolidation of the curtain wall erected around Latin, the knowledge that, by definition, traditionally pervaded the monolithic structure of men's studies, as opposed to the plurality and variety of women's studies. A variety that remained an equally stubborn sign of an alleged lack of perseverance and depth of the female intellect, forcefully reaffirmed in a great many 19th-century authors (See Cohen, 2006, 329–331).

Summary

Between 1820 and 1840, in Tuscany, female educational establishments were very different from each other in terms of their financial assets and the organisation of their fees, but what they had in common was the tendency to bind the girls to the sacred by having them celebrate and attend numerous religious functions.

The transition from the “enlightened” reformism of the age of Peter Leopold to the Restoration took place under the banner of the continuity of female reclusion, in the name of the control of honour, which remained intrinsically linked to holiness.

Secondly, the education of women of elevated status remained characterised by the expectation of a substantially sedentary life in the circumscribed space of the family to which both the arts d'agrément and needlework were linked.

References16

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1

According to the reform of 1785, the conservatori should have been, as Haraguchi writes, “lay institutions that would prepare greater numbers of young women to become obedient, productive wives and mothers who would support their husbands, manage efficient households, and raise their children to be upstanding and conscientious citizens” (Haraguchi, 2016b, p. 10).

2

See Archivio di Stato di Firenze (henceforth ASFI), Soprintendenza agli Studi, 170, cc 265v–267r.

3

On the SS Annunziata girls' boarding school, see Franchini (1993), Porta (2002).

4

On the origins and developments of the Conservatorio of the Montalve see, among others, De Benedictis (1997), Sani (2007), Paoli (2016), Haraguchi (2016), Scattigno (2018).

5

ASFI, Soprintendenza agli Studi, 170, cc 217v–218r.

6

These processes of “conventualisation” of non-monastic female institutes had characterised the entire Medici era (See Sani, 2007). For the 19th century, this trend is discussed in Franchini (1998, 177).

7

See ASFI, Segreteria di Gabinetto, n. 50, ins. 19.

8

ASFI, Soprintendenza agli Studi, 169, cc 165v–166r.

9

The treatise De l’éducation was translated almost immediately into Italian. See Campan (1827). On the author, see Haroche-Bouzinac (2017). On the work of A.-A. Necker de Saussure, Gino Capponi expressed this opinion: “an admirable book by the Genevan Necker de Saussure (L’éducation progressive): a book that every man would be proud to have written, but that only a woman could write” (Capponi, 1877, 301). See Benetton (2009).

10

On this subject, see the comments on both authors by Rogers (2005).

11

For example, at the Institute of Santa Maria Maddalena in Livorno, destitute girls were employed in a textile factory in order to learn a trade. See ASFI, Soprintendenza agli Studi, 170, cc 84v–85r.

12

See ASFI, Soprintendenza agli Studi, 170, cc 22v–23r.

13

See ASFI, Soprintendenza agli Studi, 169, cc 165v–166r.

14

See ASFI, Soprintendenza agli Studi, 170, cc 223v–224r.

15

See ASFI, Soprintendenza agli Studi, 170, cc 179v–180r.

16

The reference list contains uncited items to provide general bibliographical references on the history of education in Tuscany in the 19th century.

  • Bandini, G. (2015). From tutor to teacher: The birth of popular schooling in early 19th century Italy. In M. Caruso (Ed.), Classroom struggle. Organizing elementary school teaching in the 19th century (pp. 205228). Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Benetton, M. (2009). La vita umana come educazione: la pedagogia del corso di vita di A. Necker de Saussure fra storia ed attualità. Padua: Cleup.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Caffiero, M. (1994). Dall’esplosione mistica tardo-barocca all’apostolato sociale (1650–1850). In L. Scaraffia, & G. Zarri (Eds.), Donne e fede: santità e vita religiosa in Italia (pp. 327373). Rome-Bari: Laterza.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Calafati, M., & Teodori, B. (Eds.) (2006). S. Maria degli Angiolini a Firenze. Dieci anni di restauri. Firenze: Edifir.

  • Calogero, T. (2010). Scuole e comunità nella Toscana di Pietro Leopoldo. Florence: Regione Toscana, Consiglio regionale: Edizioni dell’Assemblea.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Campan, J.-L.H. (1824). De l’éducation,…Tome premier. Paris: Baudouin Frères.

  • Campan, J.-L.H. (1825). The Private Journal of Madame Campan, comprising original anecdotes of the French court. London: Colburn.

  • Campan, J.-L.H. (1827). Dell’educazione trattato di madama Campan aggiuntivi de’ consigli alle fanciulle ed alcuni saggi di morale…, 2 vols. Milano: published by Giuseppe Rezzi.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Capponi, G. (1877). Scritti editi e inediti, I. Florence: Barbera.

  • Cohen, M. (2006). “A little learning”? The curriculum and the construction of gender difference in the long eighteenth century. British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 29, 321335.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • De Benedictis, C. (Ed.) (1997). Villa La Quiete: il patrimonio artistico del Conservatorio delle Montalve. Firenze: Le Lettere.

  • Fantappiè, C. (1995). I conservatori toscani nell’età di Pietro Leopoldo: genesi e significato dell’istituto. Annali di storia e dell’educazione e delle istituzioni scolastiche, 2, 3957.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Franchini, S. (1993). Élites ed educazione femminile nell’Italia dell’Ottocento. L’Istituto della SS. Annunziata di Firenze. Florence: Olschki.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Franchini, S. (1998). Scuola, conservatorio, educandato e tradizioni familiari: l’istruzione femminile a Firenze verso la metà dell’Ottocento. Annali di storia dell’educazione e delle istituzioni scolastiche, 5.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gallorini, P. (1991). Il conservatorio di S. Chiara in Castiglion Fiorentino. Città di Castello: GESP.

  • Gaudio, A. (2001). Educazione e scuola nella Toscana dell’Ottocento: dalla Restaurazione alla caduta della destra. La Scuola: Brescia.

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Senior Editors

Founding Editor: Tamás Kozma (Debrecen University)

Editor-in-ChiefAnikó Fehérvári (ELTE Eötvös Loránd University)

Assistant Editor: Eszter Bükki (BME Budapest University of Technology and Economics)

Associate editors: 
Karolina Eszter Kovács (University of Debrecen)
Krisztina Sebestyén (Gál Ferenc University)

 

Editorial Board

 

Address of editorial office

Dr. Anikó Fehérvári
Institute of Education, ELTE Eötvös Loránd University
Address: 23-27. Kazinczy út 1075 Budapest, Hungary
E-mail: herj@ppk.elte.hu

ERIC

DOAJ

ERIH PLUS

Hungarian Educational Research Journal
Publication Model Gold Open Access
Submission Fee none
Article Processing Charge none
Subscription Information Gold Open Access

Hungarian Educational Research Journal
Language English
Size B5
Year of
Foundation
2011
Volumes
per Year
1
Issues
per Year
4
Founder Magyar Nevelés- és Oktatáskutatók Egyesülete – Hungarian Educational Research Association
Founder's
Address
H-4010 Debrecen, Hungary Pf 17
Publisher Akadémiai Kiadó
Publisher's
Address
H-1117 Budapest, Hungary 1516 Budapest, PO Box 245.
Responsible
Publisher
Chief Executive Officer, Akadémiai Kiadó
ISSN 2064-2199 (Online)

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