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Women’s Day: an occasion to remember women’s rights won over time

 

 

Women’s Day comes at that time of year when nature awakens from its winter hibernation.

It stands as a beacon of light on a day that smells of history: that stream of struggle and hope that has brought us so far into the 21st century.

 

Women, with their unwavering strength and dreams, are the protagonists, victims and victorious, of this day of reflection and celebration.

They are the workers who braved the flames in the factories of New York, the revolutionaries who shouted freedom in the streets of St. Petersburg.

 

They are the mothers, the sisters, the comrades who wove the fabric of our existence.

 

March 8 is a song of freedom, a hymn to dignity. It is the day when we remember the social, political and economic achievements of women. It is also a time to shine a spotlight on discrimination, violence and injustice.

It is the day when we celebrate the strength and resilience of women of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

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Growing with awareness.

Sowing seeds of potential new achievements as a testament for future generations.

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At Caffè Florian in Taiwan

And as the world is tinted with mimosas and smiles, let us remember that women’s rights, painfully and too slowly acquired throughout the history of humanity, must be celebrated every day. We must continue to create the conditions for a better future, a blooming tomorrow in the garden that is life, to fulfill the promise made to the women who have gone before us.

The history of the Florian and the emancipation of Women.

 

The Caffè Florian  has a history that is intertwined with the historical fabric of Venice, and thus with the history of women’s emancipation that it has championed.

Since its foundation in 1720, it has been a place of possible realities, where hopes and dreams come true.

 

Women were the target of the 1776 edict that excluded them from the social life of the Caffès.

When faced with issues related to public order, the authorities found it easier to to attribute the problem to the entire female sex.

Fully knowing this same Council how essential it is to continue in putting due restraint on our females even after the carnival times are over, it is hereby decreed that in the Coffee Shops all of them may not females of any condition and in any dress either by day or by night enter (…)

 

(The Council of Ten, January 28, 1776)

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Gianni Berengo Gardin, "Caffè Florian", Marsilio Editore (2013)

The presence of women in the Cafés certainly made the conversations less interesting and the atmosphere less attractive.

 

Valentino Francesconi, heir to the Florian, made a request for a special permit to limit the economic damage that the loss of patrons could have caused to his business.

He then asked to be allowed to serve women in the “Women’s Room”, now known as the Senate Room, which was also the Resurrection Room.

Most Serene Prince the supreme discomfort that I would encounter in losing patrons so useful to me, the infinite burdens of rent, and other things necessary to the maintenance of my store, would so aggravate my unhappy person that it would be fatal if I did not obtain what I divotly, and full of confidence, implore.

Thank you

 

(Valentino Francesconi, February 26, 1786)

The Council of Ten granted Caffè Florian this concession, thanks to its excellent reputation in the city and the world.

Venice is woman: the feminine character of Venice

 

Founded on a purely feminine element, the water, which constantly embraces and challenges it, Venice is feminine.

It has always been feminine: Venice was born of courage and adaptability. Courage and the ability to adapt are qualities that belong to all women.

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Venice is a woman as beautiful and regal as Veronese’s Venice Triumphant, which dominates the Hall of the Great Council in the Doge’s Palace.

A woman who was able to conquer the sea and commerce, but also culture and art. A woman who was able to welcome and integrate the different influences that came from other civilizations, creating an original and refined synthesis, all Venetian.

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Detail of Paolo Veronese's work "Venice Enthroned," at the Doge's Palace

It welcomed fleeing peoples who found in this strip of brackish land a new hope away from wars.

In the lagoon it rose from the mud, but today its palaces in precious marbles still tell of its glories.

In Venice, the status of women played a unique and significant role, especially during the Serenissima Republic. Venetian women enjoyed a freedom and rights that were often unmatched elsewhere in Europe.

 

From the legendary mother of the city of Dogaressas, to the nuns and merchants, to the artisans and glass entrepreneurs, to the voices of the polemicists, to the literary salons, to the women fighting for workers’ rights in the factories.

A historical overview of the women who influenced the city of Venice, from its origins to the 20th century.

 

Women have played a pivotal role in shaping the city’s culture and progress throughout its history.

 

In the 5th century, Adriana, the Queen of Padua, consort of King Julius, who found herself among the refugees trying to save themselves from the fury of the Huns.

She chose the strip of land that could guarantee safety, protection and a future for her people. She chooses Dorsoduro for the first safe landing after facing the lagoon. According to this legend, the first Venetian settlement was born from the strategic judgment of a fleeing woman.

 

Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, was a symbol of Christian Venice. She represented the spiritual quest, conversion and devotion of the Venetians. She was also the patroness of travelers and pilgrims. Her relics were brought to Venice in the 13th century and have been preserved in the church that bears her name since the 11th century. The whole island of San Pietro di Castello was named after this empress, who embodied Christianity.

 

Catherine Corner, last queen of Cyprus: She was a woman of resilience and honor, who transformed her political exploitation into a chance for development. She gathered artists and humanists at her court in Asolo and became a renowned figure of the Venetian Renaissance.

 

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If Murano glass is so famous and appreciated in the world today, it is also thanks to a creative and tenacious woman who did not stop in the face of gender discrimination by male competitors – Maria Barovier.

In the mid-15th century she found herself at the head of the famous family furnace, as well as being the only heir of the volumes in which the mysterious alchemical techniques of the glass art were kept. An art considered purely male.

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"Rosetta", Murano glass bead created by Maria Barovier, used for more than two centuries as a currency in trade exchange around the world.

To continue her work without repercussions, she had to seek the protection of Doge Agostino Barbarigo. She also invented the “rosetta”, a pearl that would serve as a currency in markets around the world for more than two centuries.
This Venetian woman is a remarkable example of the courage to affirm women’s role in a male-dominated and chauvinistic society.

Cecilia Baffo La Sultana

Cecilia Venier-Baffo, Nurbanu Sultan, (Ottoman Turkish: نور بانو سلطان, Queen of Light), The Sultana

Cecilia Venier-Baffo, Nurbanu Sultan, (Ottoman Turkish: نور بانو سلطان, Queen of Light), was a remarkable woman who lived a life full of adventures, power and diplomacy.

Hailing from a noble family, La Sultana of Venice was captured and brought to Constantinople as a concubine of Sultan Selim II.

She was generous and philanthropic, and her intelligence won her the sultan’s favor. They had five children together, one of whom became the future sultan Murâd III.

Cecilia wielded significant influence over the sultan’s policies. Her letter to Queen Elizabeth I of England was crucial for the diplomatic relations between Istanbul and London. She also maintained correspondence with Maria de’ Medici, Queen of France, demonstrating her diplomatic skills.

Despite her new life at the court, Cecilia never renounced her Venetian roots. She did everything in her power to prevent military conflicts between the Ottoman Empire and Venice.

Il merito delle donne, di Moderata Fonte

"The Merit of Women" by Moderata Fonte (Venice, 1555 - 1592).

The first proto-feminist novel, “The Merit of Women”, was written by Modesta Pozzo under the pen name of Moderata Fonte.

Around a fountain with allegorical figures of Chastity, Loneliness, Freedom, Innocence, Falsehood, and Cruelty, seven women from different backgrounds, ages, and personalities converse. Corinna, who represents Wisdom, offers them drink from her breasts and responds to their inquiries.

 

Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia was the first woman to earn a degree in history. She received the title of Doctor of Philosophy as a compromise because her theology degree was not acknowledged. This was unacceptable for a woman in the 17th century. Elena was one of the most learned women of her era, proficient in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, theology, and science.

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Maria Querini Benzon defied the old Venetian aristocracy’s rules and was one of the most free-spirited Venetians in 18th century Venice. She hosted one of the most intellectually stimulating salons in her palace on the Grand Canal, where Ugo Foscolo, Thomas Moore, Antonio Canova, George Byron and Stendhal joined her. Meanwhile, history witnessed the demise of the legendary La Serenissima.

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Women who changed the course of history

 

Luisa Bergalli, the first woman to compose a melodrama, was married to Gasparo Gozzi, the editor of the Gazzeta Veneta at the Caffè Florian. Her melodrama was performed at the San Moisè Theater in 1725. She came from a humble background, but she acquired a cultural education and learned from Rosalba Carriera, a great artist whose influence reached beyond Italian borders.

 

Elisabetta Caminer, a pioneer of the Enlightenment movement, founded “Il giornale enciclopedico” in 1774 and she was its first editor.

Meanwhile, her husband, Carlo Gozzi, used to go to the Caffè Florian and have a dispute with Carlo Goldoni over their contrasting views on the Commedia dell’Arte. His wife’s “Il giornale enciclopedico” was the first Enlightenment periodical in the world and one of the leading journals of its genre at that time.

Elisabetta_Caminer_Turra 2Guadalberta

Venice has a history of patriotic women who participated in and supported the Risorgimento movement, which unified Italy and ended the Austrian domination.

One of these women was Guadalberta Beccari, the founder of the 19th-century magazine “La Donna” (“Woman”). The magazine focused on the topics of the Risorgimento and the women’s emancipation. Guadalberta collaborated with intellectuals, teachers and writers who contributed to the development of the debate on women’s citizenship. She also proposed to create a women’s section within the Querini Stampalia Library to promote the diffusion of culture among women.

The writer George Sand (Amandine Aurore Lucille Dupin) used a male pseudonym to overcome the prejudice against literary works written by women, who were considered to be inferior artists. During her to Italy in 1834, she used to go to the Caffè Florian to write. She disguised herself as a man so that she could smoke a cigar freely.

At a young age, she left an alcoholic husband to pursue her vocation as a writer, satisfying her desire for emancipation and freedom.

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Women striging Murano glass pearls to make jewellery

In Venice, the phrase “Semo tute impiraresse” (“we are all pearl stringers”) refers to an old and mostly female occupation that thrived between the 19th and 20th centuries. The impiraresse were women who strung pearls, or “impirar” in the Venetian dialect, at their homes. During the warmer seasons, these workers of all ages could be seen sitting outside their doors in the lower-class district of Castello. They received small glass beads from the Murano factories and used them to make jewelry.

These women worked endlessly, filling the Venetian streets with their sprotare (gossip), as well as nursery rhymes and songs.

“Semo tute impiraresse” conveys the solidarity and resilience of women who labored hard in unfair conditions to earn a living.

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“Ouvrières en perles à Venise”, etching di Cecil Ch. van Haanen, in Jules Gourdault, A travers Venise, Librairie de l’art, Paris et London, 1883

We are all impiraresse /we toil all day long /amid countless humiliations /We are young women /wasting the bestyears of our lives /for little money that barely feeds us.

How many tears we shed, /every pearl we string, /is a drop of sweat
For us poor women, /nothing else is left, /but to always bow our heads, /to silence and to work.

Venice is woman

 

Venice is a sublime woman, akin to the divine Eleonora Duse, who resided in Venice for many years and frequented Caffè Florian, where she encountered her admirers and her most renowned lover, Gabriele D’Annunzio.

She was a woman who embodied authenticity in life and on stage. She eschewed make-up and delivered intense performances. She tackled topics such as sex, family, marriage and the role of women in society in her plays.

Eleonora Duse

Eleonora Duse, The Divine

Venice is a city of eccentricity.

Marchesa Luisa Casati embodied the city’s eccentric, nonconformist spirit and the desire to be art herself.

She turned the city into her stage and her body into a direct expression of her art. She was a muse for many artists (Giovanni Boldini, Man Ray) who immortalized her iconic image, and inspired the fashion house Cartier to create a jewelry collection that became its emblem.

She adored the sumptuous fabrics and designs of Mariano Fortuny, one of her favorite designers.

She hosted unforgettable parties, and one night she rented the entire Caffè Florian to celebrate with her three hundred guests. She reportedly arrived at St. Mark’s Square with her cheetahs, wearing nothing but a fur coat.

Marchesa_Luisa_Casati,_with_a_greyhound,_by_Giovanni_Boldini Luisa_Casati_1922

Venice was her playground and Caffè Florian her favourite haunt. She was known as “the last Dogaressa”, a patron of the arts and a socialite par excellence.

Countess Annina Morosini, a benefactor of the Biennale, brought vitality and glamour to the Venetian scene. She orchestrated the encounter between Gabriele d’Annunzio and Marchesa Luisa Casati, two of the most flamboyant figures of the time. For over half a century, her beauty, charisma and lavish lifestyle made her the undisputed queen of the Venetian salon.

At the Caffè Florian Terrace, she had a regular table where she hosted a diverse crowd of friends, aristocrats, artists and celebrities.

Morosini Annina Felicita Bevilacqua

Venice is a city of revolutionaries.

One of them was Duchess Felicita Bevilacqua, a woman who exemplified devotion to the patriotic cause that led to the unification of Italy. She was the widow of Giuseppe La Masa, a general who fought alongside Garibaldi.

She had a great generosity and a keen interest in culture and art. When she died, she donated her family palace, Ca’ Pesaro, and its collection to the city of Venice.

She wanted it to become a center for the artistic culture of the city and a workshop for young artists. Today, the magnificent palace hosts the International Gallery of Modern Art. Felicita Bevilacqua’s legacy continues through the Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation, which fosters creativity and art as she did in her lifetime.

Illustrious women in contemporary Venice

 

The Venetian scene of the twentieth century witnessed the emergence of new female figures, whose remarkable achievements inspire a profound sense of womanhood.

Among them, Margherita Grassini Sarfatti deserves a special mention. She was an eminent Italian art critic, who played a significant role in the international cultural milieu of her era. She was also the mentor of Mussolini (whom she later renounced), and a woman of extraordinary erudition, worthy of admiration and recognition.

 

Roberta di Camerino, a famous haute couture label, was founded by Giuliana Coen Camerino, a Venetian fashion designer and entrepreneur who died in 2010.

Her logo is a belt woven into an “R”: a symbol of Venetian craftsmanship and elegance.

Roberta di Camerino’s creations have left a lasting impression on the fashion world. Her bags, accessories and dresses feature bright colors and unique designs that have charmed celebrities, royalty and artists. The “Bagonghi” bag, for instance, was worn by Princess Grace of Monaco, demonstrating the global influence and sophistication of the Venetian brand.

Roberta di Camerino

Giuliana Coen Camerino, designer and founder of the "Roberta di Camerino" brand

We want to pay tribute to a great artist, Ida Barbarigo, who was born in Venice in 1925.

She came from a family of artists: her mother was a painter and poet, and her father was the painter Guido Cadorin. Ida followed her family’s humanist tradition and devoted herself to painting, leaving an indelible mark on contemporary Venetian art. She exhibited “Hermes and Saturns” at the Fortuny Museum in 2016.

 

A great source of inspiration today: Tiziana Plebani, a historian, essayist and writer, is today an important voice in Venetian culture thanks to her passion for history, culture and activism. She studies the history of books, gender history, history of emotions and sociality, and has a special interest in the history of Venice.

Venice is a timeless city, where daring women ride the waves that mirror their courageous spirit.

Women have forged the history with a steady and innovative process of change.

Carrying the hopes, secrets and dreams of past struggles, they will lead us to a safe harbor where injustice and disparity will be a dark chapter in history.

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Cecilia Baffo La Sultana
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2-0-c marina querini benzon 1757-1839 by longhi
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