The Role of Women in Renaissance Florence

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It’s 6 pm, Alessandra Strozzi is busy making dinner for her family when she hears the news of her husband's exile and the whole world comes crashing down for her. Alessandra Strozzi was married to Matteo Strozzi and everything was going well until he was exiled from Florence. After they moved to Pesaro, a plague hit which killed three of Strozzi’s children and her husband. While devastated from her loss, she moved back to Florence. This is where her roles as a woman in Renaissance Florence took a turn and she was able to do everything not possible by other women. The typical roles of women in Renaissance Florence would be becoming a housewife and a mother as soon as possible, however, Strozzi goes against the norms and becomes the head of the household and manages finance while still continuing to keep the family reputation in their town.

Would you be blessed to lose your husband in a plague? Maybe not if you are living in the 21st century. However, things were much different in the 15th century where you had very constricted rights. In such cases like that one of Alessandra Strozzi, you would probably be glad because now you can be the head of the household and do many things that were only done by men at that time. She had to become the one to raise their children and arranger marriages for their daughters to families that would keep their family reputation. “In addition, she had to keep the household afloat financially, and she sought through family connections to get her sons established in business.” Alessandra Strozzi decided not to remarry, mainly because that would mean she has to go back to being in the house and staying low. She would have to give up her opportunity of being the model for her sons. Strozzi was also a very independent and strong woman. She did not let emotions or feelings get the best of her. Death was so common in this century that when someone died, it was like, “Oh okay, let’s move on.” Same with Strozzi, when her husband died and also when Filippo died, she was strong and moved on with her life instead of suffering from the griefs.

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Strozzi made all her decisions based on her finance. For example, she didn’t want to get Caterina married to a nobler family because that would be more dowry which she can not afford. Marco, Caterina’s husband, has a silk manufacturing business and he was the only son. They take a part in the government meaning they have some status in the community which will enhance Strozzi’s family reputation. Strozzi has to give one thousand florins of dowry and she is taking a loan for five hundred and the rest will be in cash and trousseau. Dowry is money or property the bride’s family gives to the groom’s family. It is interesting that there is such a thing as a dowry fund that helps families to give dowry, almost as if they are paying for their daughter. The dowry makes it seems like a girl is a burden to their family because they have to pay a price to get her married. However, Caterina’s life is an example of what the life of Florence women looked like. Her husband molded her in luxurious clothing and jewelry which will show off his wealth when she goes out. “When she goes out she’ll have more than four hundred florins on her back.” Another example is when she took out insurance on her pregnant daughter. It sounds harsh but money was a big deal for people and she was going to lose a lot of money if Catrina died. Since dying in childbirth was a common thing, taking insurance was not as strange as it sounds. “... we should take out some insurance so we won’t lose the five hundred florins they’re owed from the (dowry) fund, as we can lose her and the money at the same time.” Another example is when she tries to get her son married. Strozzi uses her prior financial knowledge to plan out the reasons why the Francesco family would give their daughter to her son. She states how they're lacking young men of good family, has a small dowry and a big family that needs to be settled.

Everything comes to an end, and so did Strozzi’s responsibilities. Although, until her last breath she was worried about her family’s finance and how they are going to be. In her last letter, she mentions about the chaotic situation in Florence and how it has impacted the families in Florence. Things were looking bad and she had no grain. “And apart from this great trouble, there’s been an earthquake....” She was becoming poor but she was happy to see her sons and daughter in places that they were happy in. She put her sons in business and her daughters with families that adore them. Alessandra Strozzi became the model she wanted to be for her sons and did everything better than her husband would have done. She went against the norms and stereotypes to become an empowering and independent woman in Renaissance Florence.

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