Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Brian J. Maxson

Committee Members

Julie Fox-Horton, John Rankin


In 1976 Joan Kelly released her influential article “Did Women have a Renaissance?” Kelly argued that women did not enjoy any of the benefits of the period. Rather, she claimed, the lives of women were actually worse after the 1400s than they had been before. Since 1976, new primary documents authored by women have been discovered. Moreover, new access to relevant writings by authors like Francesco Barbaro, Pier Vergerio, Leonardo Bruni, Juan Luis Vives, and Erasmus make revisiting Kelly’s arguments possible. This thesis uses a sample of these texts to explore women’s experiences and create innovative avenues to explore in gender history. Towards those ends, it combines recent scholarship with primary documents to reveal an incongruence between the expectations placed on women and their self-identified lived experiences. It offers, thus, a more complicated world than that presented in Kelly’s paradigmatic study.

Document Type

Thesis - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.