Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Outspoken Venetian Nun - Elena Cassandra Tarabotti (Arcangela) 1604 – 1652

As the eldest daughter in a family of eleven children. She was born lame and because of her ailment, her marriage prospects were considered very poor. Seeing her as a liability, her stringent, tyrannical parents shipped her off to the Benedictine Convent of Sant'Anna in Castello, Venice when she was a only eleven years old. Despite her parents eagerness to get rid of her, she looked forward to life in a convent. At least there she could learn to read and write.

Wrong! The education she received there was poor indeed. So she set out to teach herself to read and write. At sixteen she took her initial vows and three years later her final vows. She did not want to be a nun, but she had no alternative. Her family refused to support her or provide a dowry for marriage because of her lameness. She took the name Arcangela. 
With pen in hand, Arcangela discovered she had a mighty voice. She wrote a total of 6 books. One was named Paternal Tyranny and is a passionate indictment not only of her family who dumped her in a convent but also of the convent system in which young women were shunted aside to wither uneducated and unappreciated.
Through her writing she wrote many a scathing diatribe about the poor education of nuns and the hardships of life in a convent. Not only did she write books, but she corresponded with numerous famous and not so famous persons throughout Italy during her lifetime. As a result of her forceful defense of women in her writing and the many questions she raised about the social, political and religious institutional practices of the time, Tarabotti is considered by many to be a true pro-feminist writer as well as an early political theorist.
Tarabotti's passion for learning was so intense, the convent allowed her to receive visitors, news, and books from various prestigious learning academies. All her books were published. Tarabotti died in 1652 at the age of 48.

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