Striving for recognition: the first five female professors in Italy (1887–1904)

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Italy opened the doors of its universities to female students in 1875. The generalview was that very few women were clever enough to obtain a degree, so they would not threaten social stability. Female professors would be even rarer–a few exceptional “male” women. Access to the professions was impossible in the case of the legal profession, or limited in terms of medicine. In this context, where both Catholics and Positivists opposed women’s careers, seeing them as incompatible with motherhood and marriage, five women managed to enter theacademic world as unsalaried lecturers: Giuseppina Cattani (1887, Pathology), Paolina Schiff (1891/1893, German literature and language), Rina Monti (1899, Anatomy and Comparative Physiology), Teresa Labriola (1901, Philosophy of Law) and Maria Montessori (1904, Anthropology). With archival documents and other contemporary texts, this paper reconstructs who these women were and the many difficulties they faced in academic life. Four of them were emancipationists and did not marry. These choices debarred them from  pursuing a full academic career. Only Monti, who had a family and took no active part in female propaganda, managed to become a  full professor in 1911, the first woman in Italy to do so.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)748-768
Numero di pagine21
RivistaPaedagogica Historica
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2020


  • 1861–1911
  • Female education
  • Female professors
  • Italy
  • University system


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