Roots of feminism
Sarah Ross, assistant professor of history
PhD, Northwestern University
Representative publication: The Birth of Feminism: Woman as Intellect in Renaissance Italy and England, (Harvard University Press, forthcoming)
As an undergraduate, I fell in love with Latin and Greek literature and with the idea of a "classical tradition," but I also wondered when and how women writers began interacting with that tradition. Suspecting that the answers were to be found somewhere in the annals of Renaissance history, I spent my graduate career pursuing the topic of women writers and intellectual families in Renaissance Italy and England and found a surprising story: Learned women of that era put their pens to use in refuting negative conceptions of "woman," and in arguing for women's advanced education.
I have just completed a book on the first feminists of Renaissance Europe. My current project concerns the changing definitions of family and intellectual community in late-Renaissance Europe. I am studying archival material (wills, mostly) relating to English schoolmasters and university fellows, looking how class, religion, and gender led to friendships that might best be termed "elective kinship"óclose bonds that were signaled in a variety of ways, including bequests of cherished editions of classical texts.