Women in Venice
Among the elite society, courtesans were not the only women who were allowed to congregate with men, although their role was different. According to Anne Christine Junkerman, there were two types of women, “patrician women and the courtesans.” The lives of wives and women of noble status (noblewomen) were closely monitored by their husbands. Streets, canals, and other public places were often deemed male locales: as opposed to a wife’s locale, which was dominantly secular, and inside her household. The household was even segregated. Women were secluded to certain rooms designated to their duties. Ground floors were reserved for men, used for storage, and business, while women were associated with the kitchen and bedroom, not for sexual activities, but for childbirth. Although wives and noblewomen of Venice were monitored, they were respected highly for their care of the household. After Lorenzo Tiepolo was elected Doge, guildsmen marched in front of his house to salute his wife, to acknowledge her role as “keeper of the Tiepolo home.” The lives of noblewomen and wives differed greatly from that of courtesans, establishing the purpose that each group served to Venice. The roles of these women would only intertwine at dinner tables of high-class events. While the wives would sit on the side, quietly talking amongst themselves, the courtesans were engaged with the men; a source of entertainment for the evening by dancing, singing, or reciting poetry. Although the women served a different purpose, Junkerman states that the women were interchangeable. Courtesans and patrician women could attend plays, be seated at banquet tables, but courtesans would be used by unwed and married men as a use of literate and sexual interest. The role of women in Venice was determined by their title. The influence of wives and courtesans in Venice highlights the social use that each group portrayed. Wives were homemakers, and destined to care for her husband and children; courtesans were used in place of wives, to talk to and release unruly lust in which respectable wives would not take part. The social status of patrician women and courtesans had been determined based on their use in Venetian society.
For more information on restrictions held by women, see Government Regulations by Katherine. She discusses the restrictions by Government on the fashions that women were allowed to wear.