Lost Girls: Sex and Death in Renaissance Florenceby Nicholas Terpstra
Pub. Date: 07/11/2012
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
In 1554, a group of idealistic laywomen founded a home for homeless and orphaned adolescent girls in one of the worst neighborhoods in Florence. Of the 526 girls who lived in the home during its fourteen-year tenure, only 202 left there alive. Struck by the unusually high mortality rate, Nicholas Terpstra sets out to determine what killed the lost girls of the
In 1554, a group of idealistic laywomen founded a home for homeless and orphaned adolescent girls in one of the worst neighborhoods in Florence. Of the 526 girls who lived in the home during its fourteen-year tenure, only 202 left there alive. Struck by the unusually high mortality rate, Nicholas Terpstra sets out to determine what killed the lost girls of the House of Compassion shelter (Casa della Pietà).
Reaching deep into the archives' letters, ledgers, and records from both inside and outside the home, he slowly pieces together the tragic story. The Casa welcomed girls in bad health and with little future, hoping to save them from an almost certain life of poverty and drudgery. Yet this "safe" house was cruelly dangerous. Victims of Renaissance Florence’s sexual politics, these young women were at the disposal of the city’s elite men, who treated them as property meant for their personal pleasure.
With scholarly precision and journalistic style, Terpstra uncovers and chronicles a series of disturbing leads that point to possible reasons so many girls died: hints of routine abortions, basic medical care for sexually transmitted diseases, and appalling conditions in the textile factories where the girls worked.
Church authorities eventually took the Casa della Pietà away from the women who had founded it and moved it to a better part of Florence. Its sordid past was hidden, until now, in an official history that bore little resemblance to the orphanage’s true origins. Terpstra’s meticulous investigation not only uncovers the sad fate of the lost girls of the Casa della Pietà but also explores broader themes, including gender relations, public health, church politics, and the challenges girls and adolescent women faced in Renaissance Florence.
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)
- Age Range:
- 18 Years
Table of Contents
List of Figures ix
Note on Dates, Currency, and Measures xv
1 Mystery and Silence 1
2 The Setting: Sex and the City 12
3 Renaissance Teenagers: Working Girls 51
4 Teenage Girls and Birth Control 85
5 Renaissance Fundamentalists and Girls in Trouble 113
6 Virgin Girls and Venereal Disease 148
7 Conclusion: Friction in the Archives 169
Appendix: Sexual Politics: Giulia and the Crown Prince Gonzaga 183
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