Memoirs: Hortense Mancini and Marie Mancini

Memoirs: Hortense Mancini and Marie Mancini

Memoirs: Hortense Mancini and Marie Mancini

Memoirs: Hortense Mancini and Marie Mancini

Synopsis

The memoirs of Hortense (1646–1699) and of Marie (1639–1715) Mancini, nieces of the powerful Cardinal Mazarin and members of the court of Louis XIV, represent the earliest examples in France of memoirs published by women under their own names during their lifetimes. Both unhappily married- Marie had also fled the aftermath of her failed affair with the king- the sisters chose to leave their husbands for life on the road, a life quite rare for women of their day.

Through their writings, the Mancinis sought to rehabilitate their reputations and reclaim the right to define their public images themselves, rather than leave the stories of their lives to the intrigues of the court- and to their disgruntled ex-husbands. First translated in 1676 and 1678 and credited largely to male redactors, the two memoirs reemerge here in an accessible English translation that chronicles the beginnings of women's rights to personal independence within the confines of an otherwise circumscribed early modern aristocratic society.

Excerpt

Margaret L. King and Albert Rabil Jr.

The old voice and the other voice

In western Europe and the United States, women are nearing equality in the professions, in business, and in politics. Most enjoy access to education, reproductive rights, and autonomy in financial affairs. Issues vital to women are on the public agenda: equal pay, child care, domestic abuse, breast cancer research, and curricular revision with an eye to the inclusion of women.

These recent achievements have their origins in things women (and some male supporters) said for the first time about six hundred years ago. Theirs is the “other voice,” in contradistinction to the “first voice,” the voice of the educated men who created Western culture. Coincident with a general reshaping of European culture in the period 1300–1700 (called the Renaissance or early modern period), questions of female equality and opportunity were raised that still resound and are still unresolved.

The other voice emerged against the backdrop of a three-thousandyear history of the derogation of women rooted in the civilizations related to Western culture: Hebrew, Greek, Roman, and Christian. Negative attitudes toward women inherited from these traditions pervaded the intellectual, medical, legal, religious, and social systems that developed during the European Middle Ages.

The following pages describe the traditional, overwhelmingly male views of women’s nature inherited by early modern Europeans and the new tradition that the “other voice” called into being to begin to challenge reigning assumptions. This review should serve as a framework for understanding the texts published in the series the Other Voice in Early Modern Europe. Introductions specific to each text and author follow this essay in all the volumes of the series.

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