Lucrezia Marinella was born in 1571 in Venice. She was the daughter of natural philosopher and physician, Giovanni Marinelli. Giovanni encouraged Marinella’s education and provided her with important literature covering subjects like medicine, biology, and philosophy. Giovanni was well established as a physician publishing many medical treatises, two of which focused solely on women. Unfortunately, nothing is known of her mother who may have died in childbirth. Little is known of Marinella’s personal life as she lived secluded and devoted to her studies and writing. From her will, we know Marinella married physician Girolamo Vacca and had two children, Antonio and Paulina. She died on October 9th, 1653 of quartan fever, a form of malaria.
Marinella published poetry, philosophical texts, and religious works throughout her lifetime with the exception of a period of silence from 1606-1617 following her marriage to Girolamo. As far as we know, Marinella did not leave behind any personal letters or memoirs. Her most famous work, The Nobility and Excellence of Women and the Defects and Vices of Men, was published in 1600. This text served as a response to an anti-women treatise published a year earlier by Giuseppe Passi entitled, The Defects of Women. Marinella’s Nobility defends the superior virtue and nature of women in comparison to men. For the next few weeks, I will be looking at various passages from the Nobility to explore her feminist and philosophical insights and beliefs.
Image info: Lucrezia Marinella by Giacomo Piccini, 1652, published in Venice.
Olivia Branscum is a PhD student in Philosophy at Columbia University. She is co-producer of the ENN New Voices podcast