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Lost Girls: Sex and Death in Renaissance Florence

Nicholas Terpstra

Published by Johns Hopkins University Press
ISBN 10: 1421407728 / ISBN 13: 9781421407722
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Bibliographic Details


Title: Lost Girls: Sex and Death in Renaissance ...

Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition: New

Book Type: Paperback

Description:

Paperback. 264 pages. Dimensions: 9.2in. x 6.1in. x 1.0in.In 1554, a group of idealistic laywomen founded a home for homeless and orphaned adolescent girls in one of the worst neighborhoods in Florence. Of the 526 girls who lived in the home during its fourteen-year tenure, only 202 left there alive. Struck by the unusually high mortality rate, Nicholas Terpstra sets out to determine what killed the lost girls of the House of Compassion shelter (Casa della Piet). Reaching deep into the archives letters, ledgers, and records from both inside and outside the home, he slowly pieces together the tragic story. The Casa welcomed girls in bad health and with little future, hoping to save them from an almost certain life of poverty and drudgery. Yet this safe house was cruelly dangerous. Victims of Renaissance Florences sexual politics, these young women were at the disposal of the citys elite men, who treated them as property meant for their personal pleasure. With scholarly precision and journalistic style, Terpstra uncovers and chronicles a series of disturbing leads that point to possible reasons so many girls died: hints of routine abortions, basic medical care for sexually transmitted diseases, and appalling conditions in the textile factories where the girls worked. Church authorities eventually took the Casa della Piet away from the women who had founded it and moved it to a better part of Florence. Its sordid past was hidden, until now, in an official history that bore little resemblance to the orphanages true origins. Terpstras meticulous investigation not only uncovers the sad fate of the lost girls of the Casa della Piet but also explores broader themes, including gender relations, public health, church politics, and the challenges girls and adolescent women faced in Renaissance Florence. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Bookseller Inventory # 9781421407722

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Book ratings provided by GoodReads:
3.65 avg rating
(26 ratings)

Synopsis: In 1554, a group of idealistic laywomen founded a home for homeless and orphaned adolescent girls in one of the worst neighborhoods in Florence. Of the 526 girls who lived in the home during its fourteen-year tenure, only 202 left there alive. Struck by the unusually high mortality rate, Nicholas Terpstra sets out to determine what killed the lost girls of the House of Compassion shelter (Casa della Pieta). Reaching deep into the archives' letters, ledgers, and records from both inside and outside the home, he slowly pieces together the tragic story. The Casa welcomed girls in bad health and with little future, hoping to save them from an almost certain life of poverty and drudgery. Yet this "safe" house was cruelly dangerous. Victims of Renaissance Florence's sexual politics, these young women were at the disposal of the city's elite men, who treated them as property meant for their personal pleasure. With scholarly precision and journalistic style, Terpstra uncovers and chronicles a series of disturbing leads that point to possible reasons so many girls died: hints of routine abortions, basic medical care for sexually transmitted diseases, and appalling conditions in the textile factories where the girls worked. Church authorities eventually took the Casa della Pieta away from the women who had founded it and moved it to a better part of Florence. Its sordid past was hidden, until now, in an official history that bore little resemblance to the orphanage's true origins. Terpstra's meticulous investigation not only uncovers the sad fate of the lost girls of the Casa della Pieta but also explores broader themes, including gender relations, public health, church politics, and the challenges girls and adolescent women faced in Renaissance Florence.

Book Description:

The book contains fascinating, and sometimes shocking, information about Terpstra?s topic. I appreciated that Terpstra does not exclusively limit himself to the subject of Casa della Pietà, but uses the mystery of what happened to the home?s residents as a way to examine related issues.

(Erin Schowalter Feminist Review)

Lost Girls is a fine addition to any history collection, especially those with a focus on the Renaissance.

( Midwest Book Review)

The Casa della Pietà, or House of Compassion, was one of Renaissance Florence's earliest shelters for orphaned or otherwise abandoned adolescent girls... Of the 526 girls who lived there during the 14 years it was open, 324 died there. What was killing these girls? Terpstra attempts to solve this mystery.

( Choice)

[Terpstra's] study of Pietà can be recommended highly not only to those interested in women's history, social history, medical history, and economic history but also to anyone who cares about the historian's craft.

(Jonathan Davies Reviews in History)

A masterpiece of historical writing and an invaluable contribution to the study of premodern Italy... This book should be welcomed by anyone interested in social history, gender history, the history of sexuality, religious history or the history of medicine.

(Tamar Herzig Journal of Modern History)

Energetic, archival scholarship.

(Elizabeth S. Cohen Literary Review of Canada)

Unusual and ingenious... Those interested in the history of early-modern Catholic Europe and Catholic institutions on the Italian peninsula will find much to think about while reading this book.

(Kate Lowe Catholic Historical Review)

It is well written and well researched by an established and erudite historian of this period, and it treats a difficult subject: the situation of Florentine orphaned or abandoned adolescent girls in the sixteenth century.

(R. Burr Litchfield Renaissance Quarterly)

Terpstra weaves literary evidence, intelligent guesswork, and vivid historical imagination into an eminently readable micro-history that forms part of a growing body of scholarship that challenges long-held historical assumptions about female honor in the Mediterranean world.

(Philip Gavitt American Historical Review)

Nicholas Terpstra uses the puzzling deaths of teenaged girls in a Florentine asylum for the poor to take us into many surprising corners in the life of working people, and especially women, in that sixteenth-century city?sexual, medical, religious, and more. A fascinating Renaissance mystery story and a wonderful read!

(Natalie Zemon Davis, author of The Return of Martin Guerre)

This is history with a decidedly human face. The author?s vivid descriptions of urban life and its material realities are unsurpassed. It?s no exaggeration to say that this book makes the streets of Renaissance Florence come alive like no other.

(Sharon T. Strocchia, author of Nuns and Nunneries in Renaissance Florence)

In this finely crafted microhistory he exposes the social and cultural contradictions often lost in more general studies that were critical to the existence and functioning of the Casa della Pietà.

(Duane J. Osheim Sixteenth Century Journal)

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