Portrait of Bia de’ Medici.
Children’s attire during the Renaissance was miniature versions of adult attire. By age 7 or 8, children would begin taking on adult roles and be treated as adults.
Image from Wikipedia.

Girls during the Renaissance were very much like Medieval girls.

Girls of the lower classes typically possessed two outfits and one pair of shoes. She might, if fortunate, have a few toys or dolls, likely handed down from older siblings or her parents. She would share a bed with her entire family, living her life in a home that had only two rooms. She would spend her first few years playing, watching as her mother took care of the home. By age eight, she would join her mother and learn how to take care of a household and children, often receiving little to no education before she married in her late teens. She might also help in her father’s trade, tending a shop or assisting in making goods, so that she had skills to help her attract a tradesman as a husband.

Girls of the upper classes fared a little better. With the rise of better economies and new markets, the Renaissance saw the birth of the middle class (the merchants) and many girls faced better prospects for a husband who could support her. Like her lower class peers, girls were considered “little adults” – they were treated and expected to behave like adults by the age of seven or eight. Upper class girls were still educated in how to be a lady, but the Renaissance did lead to many girls also receiving an education in reading and writing, classics, foreign languages, math, and theology.

Upper class girls married at a younger age than their lower-class peers: usually by their mid-teens. They would quickly become mothers, as well. If a girl did not become married, or if her family could not afford the dowry for a wedding, she would be sent to live her life as a nun in the convent. Becoming a nun also required a dowry, but it was far smaller than marrying a man. Thus, many families chose to marry one or two girls and send the rest to the convent.

Some women were able to escape this fated choice and become true “Renaissance women”: accomplished in many fields of study and contributing to society in some way. Yet the Renaissance, unfortunately, had very little impact on the daily lives of most women, and thus girls continued as they had for centuries: learning to care for the home, marriage, and bearing children.

-Tiffany Rhoades
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Pin It on Pinterest