The Literary Women of Italy. [Manuscript article.]
[ New Yok: n.d., ca. 1892.]. Both the article and the manuscript note are undated, but were likely written around 1892, when Alice Howard Cady (1855 – 1901) returned from a trip to Italy. During the trip, she met with Italian women writers and encouraged them to send their books to the World’s Fair for a special display. It is unclear whether this article was ever published. With six cabinet photographs: three are approx. 5 x 8 in.; two approx. 5 x 6 in., one 7 x 9 in. Five of the photographs show Italian women writers discussed in the essay (labelled in ink), and one (taken in Florence) shows an unidentified woman seated amongst a group of men. Also, with a manuscript note by the author. The names of women writers in the article are highlighted in a darker ink. A bit of toning and some wear to edges of leaves. Chipping to edges of three of the photographs. All in very good condition. Manuscript written in black ink. 8 x 14 in. 39 ff. Item #17397
Cady discusses dozens of Italian women writers in the present article. She details their individual literary careers, as well as their literary circles and their connections to the broader European literary and artistic world. Writers discussed include Florentine humanist scholars Alessandra Scala (1475 – 1506) and Cassandra Fidele (c. 1465 – 1558), the latter of whom has been described as the most renowned woman scholar in Italy during the last decades of the fifteenth century. Cady also writes in detail about Alinda Bonacci Brunamonti (1841 – 1903), a poet and scholar who was the first woman in Italy to vote, and the premier Italian woman poet of the day. The cabinet card photographs capture contemporary women writers also profiled in the article: Virginia Treves (a writer and publisher who used the pseudonym Cordelia), Emma Viola Ferretti, Ginevra Almerighi, Marchioness Teresa Venuti, and Irma Melany Scodnick. Many of these writers had professional, personal, or even familial connections to each other, and Cady outlines a full ecosystem of literary and social influences across Italy. Cady incorporates women of many regions of Italy in the article — as far north as Padua and Milan, then down to Ravenna and Rome, and into Naples — and women with ancestry in Poland, France, Spain, and more. Despite her remarkable thoroughness in recording her original research on the literary women of Italy, Cady writes, “It would be difficult under any circumstances, and in this sketch impossible, to do full justice to the literary movement in Italy, at present. Every phase of literature is being carefully studied, from close application to archaeology, history and sciences, to drama, journalism, poetry, realistic and imaginative fiction, each branch has worthy representatives.” Indeed, Cady’s article is full of information that is difficult or impossible to obtain from other sources, but it also suggests great potential for further study using her research as a foundation.
Cady was a playwright, translator, historian, and author of books on games (checkers, whist, hearts, dominoes, and more). She was also an advocate for the education of women and a suffragist. The record of the World’s Congress of Representative Women records her as the head of the Home Advisory Council in 1892 and 1893; the council also counted Clara Barton, Elizabeth Cady Stanton (no known relation), and Clara Bewick Colby among its members during those years. It was under the auspices of the World’s Congress of Representative Women that Cady helped source books by Italian women writers for a World’s Fair display Cady wrote profusely and thoroughly about Italian literature and history. She contributed articles on Italian culture to periodicals including Peterson’s Magazine, which featured an article by her on the Girls’ Professional School in Rome, which she visited earlier that year. In the article, Cady further comments on Italian women writers, including Brunamonti, and notes their importance in the Girls’ Professional School curriculum. Brunamonti was of particular interest to Cady, who wrote an article for Peterson’s Magazine about Brunamonti’s life and literary influences. Cady’s translations included Edmondo de Amicis’ Ricordi d’Infanza e di Scuola, which she translated from the Italian as School and Home. See Cady, Alice Howard. “A Daughter of Perugia.” Peterson’s Magazine, new series – vol. 3 (1894), pp. 75-81; Cady, Alice Howard. “Girls’ Professional School in Rome.” Peterson’s Magazine, new series – vol. 3 (1894), pp. 229-236; Eagle, Mary K. Oldham, editor. The Congress of Women (1894), p. 162; World’s Congress of Representative Women: A Historical Résumé… (1894), vol. 2, pp. 932-934.