Women s Literacy In Early Modern Spain And The New World

by Other

Author Other Isbn 978 1409427131 File size 2 8 MB Year 2011 Pages 296 Language English File format PDF Category Languages Containing essays from leading and recent scholars in Peninsular and colonial studies this volume offers entirely new research on women s acquisition and practice of literacy on conventual literacy and on the cultural representations of women s literacy Together the essays reveal the surprisingly broad range of pedagogical methods and learning experiences undergone by e

Publisher :

Author : Other

ISBN : 978 1409427131

Year : 2011

Language: English

File Size : 2.8 MB

Category : Languages

Women’s Literacy in
Early Modern Spain
and the New World

Women and Gender in the
Early Modern World
Series Editors:
Allyson Poska, The University of Mary Washington, USA
Abby Zanger

The study of women and gender offers some of the most vital and innovative
challenges to current scholarship on the early modern period. For more than a
decade now, Women and Gender in the Early Modern World has served as a forum
for presenting fresh ideas and original approaches to the field. Interdisciplinary
and multidisciplinary in scope, this Ashgate book series strives to reach beyond
geographical limitations to explore the experiences of early modern women and
the nature of gender in Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Africa. We welcome
proposals for both single-author volumes and edited collections which expand and
develop this continually evolving field of study.
Titles in the series include:
Guardianship, Gender, and the Nobility in Early Modern Spain
Grace E. Coolidge
Education and Women in the Early Modern Hispanic World
Elizabeth Teresa Howe
Early Modern Women and Transnational Communities of Letters
Edited by Julie D. Campbell and Anne R. Larsen
Women’s Letters Across Europe, 1400–1700
Form and Persuasion
Edited by Jane Couchman and Ann Crabb

Women’s Literacy in
Early Modern Spain
and the New World

Edited by
Anne J. Cruz
University of Miami, USA
Rosilie Hernández
University of Illinois at Chicago, USA

© The editors and contributors 2011
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system
or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or
otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher.
Anne J. Cruz and Rosilie Hernández have asserted their rights under the Copyright, Designs and
Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the editors of this work.
Published by
Ashgate Publishing Limited Ashgate Publishing Company
Wey Court East Suite 420
Union Road
101 Cherry Street
Surrey, GU9 7PT
VT 05401-4405
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Women’s literacy in early modern Spain and the New World. – (Women and gender in the early
modern world)
1. Women – Books and reading – Spain – History – 16th century. 2. Women – Books and reading
– Spain – History – 17th century. 3. Women and literature – Spain – History – 16th century.
4. Women and literature – Spain – History – 17th century. 5. Literacy – Spain – History – 16th
century. 6. Literacy – Spain – History – 17th century. 7. Women – Education – Spain – History
– 16th century. 8. Women – Education – Spain – History – 17th century. 9. Women – Books and
reading – New Spain – History – 16th century. 10. Women – Books and reading – Colombia
– History – 16th century.
I. Series II. Cruz, Anne J., 1941– III. Hernandez, Rosilie.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Women’s literacy in early modern Spain and the new world / edited by Anne J. Cruz and Rosilie
p. cm. — (Women and gender in the early modern world)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-4094-2713-1 (hardback: alk. paper) — ISBN 978-1-4094-2714-8 (ebook: alk.
1. Women—Books and reading—Spain—History. 2. Literacy in literature. 3. Women and
literature—Spain—History—16th century. 4. Women and literature—Spain—History—17th
century. 5. Literacy—Spain—History. 6. Women—Education—Spain—History. 7. Women—
Education—New Spain—History. I. Cruz, Anne J., 1941– II. Hernandez, Rosilie.
Z1039.W65W65 2011
ISBN: 9781409427131 (hbk)
ISBN: 9781409427148 (ebk)


List of Figures  
Notes on Contributors  
Anne J. Cruz
Part 1


The Practices of Women’s Literacy

1 Women’s Reading Habits: Book Dedications to Female Patrons in
Early Modern Spain  
Nieves Baranda Leturio


2 Reading over Men’s Shoulders: Noblewomen’s Libraries and
Reading Practices  
Anne J. Cruz


3 From Mother to Daughter: Educational Lineage in the
Correspondence between the Countess of Palamós and
Estefania de Requesens  
Montserrat Pérez-Toribio
4 The Education, Books and Reading Habits of Ana de Mendoza
y de la Cerda, Princess of Éboli (1540–1592)  
Trevor J. Dadson
Part 2



Conventual Literacy in Spain and the New World

5 Wondrous Words: Miraculous Literacy and Real Literacy in the
Convents of Early Modern Spain  
Darcy R. Donahue


6 “Let Your Women Keep Silence”: The Pauline Dictum and
Women’s Education   
Elizabeth Teresa Howe


7 Women’s Literacy and Masculine Authority: The Case of
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and Antonio Núñez de Miranda  
Stephanie L. Kirk


8 Convent Education in Nueva Granada: White and Black,
or Tonalities of Gray?  
Clara E. Herrera


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Part 3

Representing Women’s Literacy in Art and Literature

9 Learning through Love in Lope de Vega’s Drama  
Adrienne L. Martín


10 Ana Caro and the Literary Academies of Seventeenth-Century Spain  191
Alicia R. Zuese
11 María de Zayas, or Memory Chains and the Education of a
Learned Woman  
Yolanda Gamboa-Tusquets
12 The Politics of Exemplarity: Biblical Women and the Education
of the Spanish Lady in Martín Carrillo, Sebastián de Herrera
Barnuevo, and María de Guevara  
Rosilie Hernández



13 Learning at her Mother’s Knee? Saint Anne, the Virgin Mary,
and the Iconography of Women’s Literacy  
Emilie L. Bergmann




List of Figures
Jan van Eyck (c. 1395–1441), Annunciation (1434–1436).
Reproduced with permission of the National Gallery,

Washington, D.C. (Detail).


Gerard David (1450/60–1523) and Workshop, Saint Anne
Altarpiece (1500–1520). (Center panel) Reproduced with
permission of the National Gallery, Washington, D.C.



Juan de Roelas (1570–1625). Education of the Virgin

(1610–1615). Reproduced with permission of the Museo
Provincial de Bellas Artes, Seville.


Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1618–1682). Education of the
Virgin (ca. 1665) Museo del Prado, Madrid. Reproduced with
permission of SASKIA, Ltd. Photo: Dr. Ronald V.


Juan Martínez Montañés (1568–1649). Saint Anne Teaching

the Virgin. (1627–1630). Seville. Convent of Santa Ana

(Discalced Carmelites). Polychromed wood sculpture. Saint
Anne: 1.55 m. Virgin: 1.30 m. Reproduced with permission of

Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic. Arxiu Mas.



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Notes on Contributors
Nieves Baranda Leturio is Professor of Spanish literature at the Universidad
Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Madrid. She has published on
romances of chivalry, didactic literature, and travel literature. For over ten years,
her research has mainly focused on Spanish women writers, with publications
including Cortejo a lo prohibido. Lectoras y escritoras en la España moderna
(Arco Libros, 2005); the special edition of Voz y Letra on women writers (16.2,
2006); and numerous journal articles. Her anthology on women’s autobiographies
to 1700 is currently in press. She is the director, among other projects, of the
research project BIESES (Bibliografía de Escritoras Españolas: Edad Media-Siglo
XVIII). She is the editor of the series Biblioteca de Escritoras published by the
Spanish press, Castalia.
Emilie L. Bergmann is Professor of Spanish at the University of California,
Berkeley, specializing in early modern Spanish literature. She is co-editor with
Stacey Schlau of Approaches to Teaching Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (MLA, 2007).
Her publications include studies of gender and visual culture in the poetry, prose,
and theater of the seventeenth century. Most recently, she has written on music and
visual perception in Sor Juana’s Primero sueño and on cross-dressing and female
violence in the romancero and the comedia.
Anne J. Cruz is Professor of Spanish and Cooper Fellow at the University of
Miami. She has published on Spanish Petrarchism, Cervantes, Golden Age theater,
the picaresque novel, and early modern women’s writings. She has recently edited
Symbolic and Material Circulation between Spain and England, 1554–1604
(Ashgate, 2008); Approaches to Teaching Lazarillo de Tormes and the Picaresque
Tradition (MLA, 2008); and, with Mihoko Suzuki, The Rule of Women in Early
Modern Europe (Illinois UP, 2009). Her co-translation of Chimalpahin’s Conquest:
A Nahua Historian’s Rewriting of Francisco López de Gómara’s La conquista de
México was published by Stanford University Press in 2010, and her translation of
The Life and Times of Mother Andrea by Tamesis Press in 2011.
Trevor J. Dadson is Professor of Hispanic Studies at Queen Mary, University of
London. Previously he held the same position at Queen’s University Belfast and
at the University of Birmingham. He has written and published extensively on the
literature, especially poetry, and political, socioeconomic, and cultural history of
the Spanish Golden Age, with special emphasis on the life and works of the poets
Gabriel Bocángel y Unzueta and Diego de Silva y Mendoza, Count of Salinas. He
is widely known for his work on private libraries and book ownership, and more
recently for his ground-breaking research on the Moriscos of New Castile, their
assimilation into Castilian society and resistance to the expulsions of 1609–1614.
He is currently working with Professor Helen Reed on an edition of all of the letters

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and documents written and/or signed by the Princess of Éboli to be accompanied
by a new biography based on the new material they have found. He has in press
with the University of Granada a variorum edition of his historical articles on the
Count of Salinas, while his latest publication is a study of the Rimas (1634) of
Lupercio and Bartolomé Leonardo de Argensola (Institución Fernando el Católico,
Zaragoza, 2010). In 2008 he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy, and
from October 2011 he will be a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellow.
Darcy R. Donahue is Professor of Spanish and Women’s Studies at Miami
University of Ohio. Her scholarly interests include early modern Spanish narrative,
biography, and the intersection of gender and religion. She is the translator and
editor of Ana de San Bartolomé. Autobiography and Other Writings (Chicago
UP, 2008). Other publications include articles on Cervantes, Teresa of Ávila, and
Ignatius of Loyola.
Yolanda Gamboa-Tusquets received her Ph.D. from Purdue University in 2000.
She teaches Spanish literature and culture as well as workshops on translation at
Florida Atlantic University. Her research is devoted to early modern women writers
and cultural studies, with recent publications on architecture in María de Zayas,
and on chocolate and the city of Naples as elements of the Spanish imaginary. A
recent publication is Cartografía social en la narrativa de María de Zayas [Social
Cartography in Maria de Zayas’s Prose Works] (Biblioteca Nueva, 2009). Her
translation of Rafael Argullol’s El fin del mundo como obra de arte [The End of the
World as a Work of Art] (Bucknell UP, 2005), with an introduction to the Spanish
contemporary essay and a critical afterword, was nominated for the 2006 MLA
Aldo and Jean Scaglione Award for a translation of a literary work. Currently, she
is investigating the presence of Spanish women in early modern Florida.
Rosilie Hernández is Associate Professor of Spanish and Acting Director of the
School of Literatures, Cultural Studies, and Linguistics at the University of Illinois
at Chicago. She is the author of Bucolic Metaphors: History, Subjectivity, and
Gender in the Early Modern Spanish Pastoral (Studies in the Romance Languages
and Literatures Series, University of North Carolina Press, 2006) and numerous
articles, most recently “Cervantes’s Don Quixote and the Arbitrista Reform
Movement: The Case of Aldonza Lorenzo” (Romance Quarterly 57. 3: 169–182);
“La fuerza del amor or the Power of Self-Love: Zaya’s response to Cervantes’s
La fuerza de la sangre” (Hispanic Review 70: 39–57); and “Luisa de Padilla’s
Lágrimas de la nobleza: Vice, Moral Authority, and the Woman Writer” (Bulletin
of Spanish Studies 87.7: 897–914). She has begun a new book project on early
modern Spanish accounts of women’s history, reception, and reproduction in
fictional and pictorial texts.
Clara E. Herrera received her Ph.D. in Hispanic Studies from the University
of Illinois at Chicago in 2010. Currently she is a lecturer in the Department
of Modern Languages and Literatures at Lake Forest College, Illinois. She

Notes onww

specializes in Colombian religious writers of the seventeenth century, and has
recently published the essay “The Influences of Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint
Teresa of Ávila on the Colombian Nun Jerónima Nava y Saavedra (1669–1727),”
in A New Companion to Hispanic Mysticism (Brill’s Companions to the Christian
Tradition), edited by Hilaire Kallendorf.
Elizabeth Teresa Howe received her doctorate in Spanish from Duke University
in 1977. She is the author of Mystical Imagery: Santa Teresa de Jesús and San
Juan de la Cruz (1988) and Education and Women in the Early Modern Hispanic
World (2008). She also edited the Instrucción de la mujer cristiana of Juan Luis
Vives (1995) and The Visionary Life of Madre Ana de San Agustín (2004). She
is currently Professor of Spanish at Tufts University, where she has taught since
Stephanie L. Kirk is Assistant Professor of Spanish and Women, Gender, and
Sexuality Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. Her main teaching and
research interests include the literature and culture of colonial Latin America and
the early modern Atlantic world, with a focus on gender and religion. Her book,
Convent Life in Colonial Mexico: A Tale of Two Communities, was published by
Florida UP in 2007. Kirk is currently at work on her second book project, Enclosed
Worlds, Endless Possibilities: Sor Juana and Culture in Colonial Mexico, which
examines Sor Juana de la Cruz’s engagement with masculine institutional and
ecclesiastical power in her explorations of the cultural and intellectual spheres
of colonial Mexico and the wider Iberian world. She has published articles in a
number of journals, including Luso-Brazilian Review, Latin American Literary
Review, Revista Hispánica Moderna, Revista Iberoamericana, and Early American
Adrienne L. Martín is Professor of Golden Age Spanish literature at the University
of California, Davis. She has published on all genres of Golden Age literature and
a wide range of topics, including Cervantes, Góngora, humor, sexuality, eroticism,
and women’s lyric. She is the author of Cervantes and the Burlesque Sonnet (U
of California P, 1991) and An Erotic Philology of Golden Age Spain (Vanderbilt
UP, 2008), and co-editor of two anthologies of essays on erotic literature: Venus
venerada: Tradiciones eróticas de la literatura española (Ed. Complutense,
2006) and Venus venerada II: Literatura erótica y modernidad en España (Ed.
Complutense, 2007). She is currently working on a book about animals in Golden
Age literature and art.
Montserrat Pérez-Toribio is Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies at Wheaton
College, Massachusetts. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois,
Chicago where she specialized in early modern Spanish literature and women and
gender studies. She is presently working on a book manuscript that examines the
literary and cultural depiction of women and their relationship to labor in sixteenth
and seventeenth-century Spain. Her study proposes a reevaluation of the multiple
work spaces occupied by early modern Spanish women.

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Alicia R. Zuese received her Ph.D. from Columbia University. She is Assistant
Professor of Golden Age Spanish literature and culture at Southern Methodist
University. She has published on Cervantes’s “Rinconete y Cortadillo” and
Luis Vélez de Guevara’s El diablo cojuelo. Currently, she is completing a book
manuscript on the aesthetic of baroque Spanish collections, including novellas and
emblems. Her essay on Ana Caro is part of a project on the mentoring of women
in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spain.

This volume originated with the papers presented at the conference “Educating
Gender: Women’s Literacy in Early Modern Spain and the New World” held at
the University of Illinois Institute for the Humanities and the Instituto Cervantes,
Chicago, on April 2 and 3, 2009; other contributors graciously submitted their
essays at our invitation. We are most grateful to the University of Illinois,
Chicago; the University of Miami; and the Program for Cultural Cooperation
between Spain’s Ministry of Culture and United States Universities for their
financial support of the conference, and to Dr. Mary Beth Rose, Director of the
Institute for the Humanities, University of Illinois, Chicago, and the staff of the
Instituto Cervantes, Chicago for the warm welcome extended us at these venues.
It is a pleasure to thank Erika Gaffney for her care in guiding us through the
editorial process, and the anonymous reader for the rigor and thoroughness given
the manuscript that considerably improved its content. We owe our greatest debt
to our outstanding contributors for their willingness to share their expertise and
insights on women’s literacy.

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Anne J. Cruz

University of Miami

But as I had acquired the rudiments of learning, I continued to study ceaselessly
divers subjects, . . . and having studied some more than others was not owing
to preference, but to the chance that more books on certain subjects had fallen
into my hands.
—Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, La Respuesta
Who can withstand, mother, the desire to know?
—Lope de Vega, El animal de Hungría

In the early modern period—and as is still the case today—reading and writing
represented the means through which both men and women acquired knowledge
and gained entry into a literate world. Yet, although men were encouraged to
continue their education beyond the vernacular languages to claim the humanist
legacy of the European Renaissance through “learned Latin” (Ong 113), women
were traditionally taught these activities solely for devotional and domestic
purposes. Because reading and writing were skills that were learned separately,
many women did not learn to write, since reading was permitted so they could have
access to devotional texts, while writing was thought to encourage their immoral
behavior. Unlike male students, whose intellectual world expanded to include the
classical past, women were admonished not to transgress the social and religious
norms applied to them so they might not fall into such temptations as reading
popular fiction or communicating needlessly through letter writing. Nonetheless,
women’s desire to learn beyond these basic measures and their struggle to obtain
high levels of literacy remained a constant throughout the history of early modern
Europe and the New World. Indeed, the English term “literacy,” which does not
have an equivalent term in Spanish and is usually translated as “alfabetización”
[alphabetization], comprises more than taking the first steps to decipher letters
and sign one’s name: it presupposes the possession over time of diverse kinds
of knowledge, experiences, and skills proffered through written sources such

For early modern education in Spain, see Infantes et al.; Moreno et al, and Capitán

Perhaps the earliest documented locus of Latin learning for women was the
tenth-century Benedictine abbey Sant Pere de les Puelles [Saint Peter of the Maidens] in
Barcelona. Although the nuns left only a trace of their linguistic knowledge in the fiscal
transactions they carried out in the convent, it is probable that they conducted most of their
readings and prayers not in their vernacular Catalan, but in Latin (McMillin 265).

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as literature, devotional and philosophical treatises, and cultural and historical
documents, many of which were written in Latin. It also accounts for the act of
writing as a vital rhetorical and social tool, as women themselves fought to become
authors, whether of literary, religious, humanist, or scientific texts.
To be sure, the abundant literary production by early modern women that
has recently become available through modern editions gives ample proof of
their participation in the written culture of Spain and the New World. The many
creative works in manuscript and print by playwrights, poets, novelists, and nuns
demonstrate that they were fully capable of applying their education to play a
part in and even challenge the male-dominated hierarchies of church and state.
The advances in early modern women’s education are not only reflected in the
impressive numbers of works written by them, they are also calibrated by how
many women were taught to read and write, whether or not they became published
authors. Women whose writings did not fall under any literary rubric also took part
in the gendering of early modern culture. Their efforts include a vast array of many
different modes of writing: letters, memoirs, treatises, and autobiographies, but
also the copious legal, religious, business, and household documents composed
or dictated and signed by them. The definition of literacy, therefore, draws as
much from these quotidian activities as from the literary field. Although the poor
and working class generally lacked the means of attaining more than a basic
level of literacy, women from the incipient middle classes and the lower and
high nobility became suitably literate to assume the domestic and business roles
expected of them, to take on positions of leadership in convents, to participate in
literary academies alongside men, and to successfully achieve professional status
as writers themselves. Women’s educational development was thus measured not
solely by their social class, but by the education received, whether from mothers,
schools, convents, or tutors in the home.
Yet women’s participation in the burgeoning world of the written word was
often criticized by moralists, an outlook reflected in numerous treatises, such as
Antonio de Espinosa’s Reglas de bien vivir muy provechosas (y aun necessarias)
a la república christiana, which states that “unless your daughter is illustrious or
she is made to look poorly by not knowing how to read or write, do not teach her,
as such knowledge places lower-class and common women at great risk, for they
will either write to or receive letters from those whom they should not, as well as
open their husband’s letters, and wrongly learn other writings and secrets toward
which the weak and curious feminine sex leans.” The same thoughts are echoed

For the rapid growth of written correspondence in early modern Spain, see Castillo

“Si no fuere tu hija illustre o persona a quien le sería muy feo no saber leer ni
escrevir, no se lo muestres, porque corre gran peligro en las mugeres baxas o communes
el saberlo, assí para rescebir o embiar cartas a quien no deven, como para abrir las de sus
maridos, y saber otras escripturas o secretos que no es razón, a quien se inclina la flaqueza
y curiosidad mugeril” (cited in Cátedra and Rojo 54). All translations are mine unless
otherwise noted.


in Pedro Sánchez’s “The qualities a man should look for in a wife” (Toledo 1584):
“He should seek a woman who cannot write, nor should he reject her because
she cannot read.” Nonetheless, many girls continued to receive a good education
that combined religious and moral instruction, not only in Spain but across the
continent and in England. In her study of English aristocratic women, Sharon D.
Michalove notes that the young girls’ typical education followed Juan Luis Vives’s
instructions for Princess Mary Tudor (1516–1558), which stressed morality as
their main goal:
“But in what kind of literature should a woman be versed?” someone may ask,
“and in what reading will she immerse herself?” … The study of wisdom, which
forms morals in the way of virtue, the study of wisdom, which teaches the best
and holiest way of life. I am not at all concerned with eloquence. A woman has
no need of that; she needs rectitude and wisdom. (71)

By contrast, the humanist education received by Sir Thomas More’s daughters,
who learned to read Latin and Greek and were taught logic, mathematics, and
astronomy, was considered extraordinary by Erasmus, who wrote to Budé in awe,
“Titus Livius is ever in their hands” (Bridgett 115). The most common kind of
education for young women was one that included “provisioning, attending to the
illnesses of the household, protecting the estates in the absence of father, brothers,
and husbands, and dealing with legal matters [that] were vital to the smooth running
of estates” (Michalove 48). Similarly, in Spain, the education of poor and middle
class, as well as aristocratic young girls, regardless of whether it took place at
the private homes of women teachers (called colegios de amigas) or in convents,
was concerned in the main with preparing them to run their future households.
Nieves Baranda Leturio has pointed out that the educational institutions for girls
founded in Toledo, Salamanca, Granada, and Madrid, among other urban centers,
were supervised by the church, and their maintenance and growth depended on the
fluctuating economics of patronage, dowries, and conventual interests.
The convent schools or colegios de doncellas imposed the same kind of daily
routine on the female students as the convents did on nuns, since their pedagogical
purpose merged with religious instruction. The hours spent daily on embroidery
and other handicrafts, for instance, were comparable to those taken up by lessons

“Que busque una muger que no sepa escrevir y aun no la devria desechar porque no
supiesse leer” (Árbol de consideración y varia doctrina; cited in Cátedra and Rojo 54).

Baranda (“L’éducation”) lists, among others, the colegio de las Once Mil Vírgenes
in Salamanca, founded in 1518; a girls’ school in the convent of Franciscan tertiaries
in Guadalajara (1524); the colegio de las Vírgenes in Zaragoza (1531); the colegio de
doncellas vírgenes de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios in Toledo (1551); the colegio de
doncellas nobles de nuestra Señora de la Asunción in Valladolid (1589); the colegio de
Nuestra Señora de las Vírgenes in Guadalajara (1591); the colegio de huérfanas in Santiago
de Compostela (1600); the colegio de la Presentación de Leganés in Madrid (1603); the
colegio de la Inmaculada Concepción in Granada (1607); the colegio del Corpus Christi in
Murcia (1610).

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on reading and writing. These schools, however, still served only a small part of
the population, as there were towns that, while supporting schools for boys, had
only one or two schools for girls (Baranda “L’éducation”). Formal education was
provided not only by convent schools and amigas, but also by tutors. Some young
women thus were able to receive stellar educations equal to those given young
men. The famous Latin scholar Luisa Sigea (1522–1560)—whose father, a wellknown humanist and educator, fled Spain along with María Pacheco, the leader of
the failed Comunero revolt—was educated by preceptors in Portugal from whom,
as she later wrote Philip II, she gained a “not at all mediocre” knowledge of Latin,
Greek, Hebrew, Chaldean, and Arabic (Baranda “Sigea,” 133).
Sigea would continue to disprove the theory that women were incapable of
humanist studies by authoring the elegiac epic Sintra and, most famously, the
heavily annotated Ciceronian dialogue Duarum virginum colloquium de vita
aulica et privata [Dialogue between two maidens on courtly and private life],
itself reflecting women’s limited choice of career between marriage or the convent
(George 168). The Zaragoza noblewoman Ana Francisca Abarca de Bolea (1602–
1686), also the daughter of a humanist, entered a Cistercian convent at age three,
where she professed as a nun and later became abbess. Learning Latin at an early
age, she maintained close communication with Zaragoza intellectuals, Baltasar
Gracián among them, and wrote poetry, novels, and hagiographies (Campo Guiral).
Yet another form of learning for young girls was through their mothers: some were
taught directly by them in the home, as was the case of Luisa de Padilla, the
Countess of Aranda (1590–1646), who in turn would write several treatises on the
education of noble children (Egido 11). Others imitated their mothers’ moral and
spiritual qualities, as in the cases of Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582) and Luisa
de Carvajal y Mendoza (1556–1614), whose mothers, although they died young,
remained models of virtue for their daughters (Cruz “Feminism”).
The most famous example of a mother–educator in the early modern period
was Queen Isabel of Castile (1451–1504), who made certain that her four
daughters and one son received an excellent humanist education along with her
courtiers’ sons. In her important book, Education and Women in the Early Modern
Hispanic World, Elizabeth Teresa Howe calls the queen the “Spanish Zenobia,”
underscoring Isabel’s stalwart military stance: “where Christine de Pizan had
postulated a city of ladies established on the firm foundation of strong-willed,
warrior queens, Spain produced a flesh-and-blood example in the person of Isabel
la Católica” (31). Barbara Weissberger’s outstanding study of the queen’s political
history, Isabel Rules: Constructing Queenship, Wielding Power, proves without
a doubt that Isabel ruled equally with her husband Fernando of Aragon, yet she
did so without neglecting her role as mother and educator. Unlike other mothers,

Sigea unsuccessfully offered her services as instructor to Philip’s soon-to-be third
wife, the adolescent Isabel de Valois (Baranda, “De investigación” 2).

Called by Plebani the “female line of instruction,” it included sisters as teachers


Isabel had at her command some of the most famous humanists in Italy, such as
Pietro Martire d’Anghiera and Lucio Marineo Siculo, to whom she entrusted the
education of young male courtiers. Writing about his travel to Spain to a friend,
Anghiera explains that
By order of the queen—who is a lover of the good arts—I have opened an
academy for the Spanish nobles, just as Socrates did for the Athenians and Plato
for many others.

And, in the same letter, he continues:
My academy has so pleased the queen—herself enthroned as a living model of all
kinds of virtues—that she has ordered her first cousin, the Duke of Guimaraes,
and the Duke of Villahermosa, the king’s nephew, to visit my house often and
remain all day, leaving only in case of emergency. In their footsteps have come
all the young heirs of the leaders of the two Spains.10

The queen and her daughters were educated in what would become the traditional
fashion for Spanish women aristocrats, for whom, according to historian Helen
Nader, “female erudition and knowledge were the norm” (11). For this purpose,
the queen appointed as their tutor an exceptional woman scholar, Beatriz Galindo
(1465–1534), known as la latina or the “Latinist” for her knowledge of that
classical language.11 Following Isabel’s pedagogical interests, Galindo founded a
hospital in Madrid, a school for poor girls, and a Hieronymite convent with funds
given her by the queen (Howe 47).
Some studies justifiably question the extent of women’s literacy, at least in
the medieval period. Weissberger is right to query whether their exclusion from
the study of Latin barred them from “full participation in intellectual discourse,”
alienating them from civic roles. She states that even these educated women
“usually abandon[ed] their writing careers after marriage,” pointing to Galindo’s
later interest in the more feminine endeavor of founding convents (“Resisting
Readers” 174–75). This may have occurred more often in other European

“Por mandato de la Reina—que es una amante de las buenas artes—he abierto una
academia para los nobles españoles, como Sócrates para los atenienses y Platón para otros
muchos” (Epistle 113; cited in Cro).
“Tanto ha agradado esta academia nuestra a la Reina—ejemplar viviente en el trono
de toda clase de virtudes—que ha mandado a su primo hermano, el Duque de Guimeraes y
al Duque de Villahermosa, sobrino del Rey, que frecuenten mi casa y estén todo el día en ella
sin salir más que cuando lo requiera un motivo urgente. En pos de éstos han venido todos los
jóvenes herederos de los potentados de ambas Españas” (Epistle 113; cited in Cro).
According to Fernández de Oviedo, although already “older” [de edad], the queen
kept Galindo by her side to teach her Latin, since she felt inadequate in her diplomatic
dealings. Among the many favors Galindo received from the queen was her brother, Gaspar
de Grizio’s appointment as secretary to the Infante Juan (138 n271). See also Matilla

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