Gender, Material Culture and Urban Experience in Early Modern Rome
This chapter considers a specific case study that of early modern Rome – in order to explore some general issues concerning the relationship between gender, materiality and urban experience. The major problem single women had to face was to earn a living for themselves and those depending on them. Roman crafts and trades were very active, but until the end of the eighteenth century, none of them had the truly industrial dimension that would allow women to be regularly employed. Prostitution was also a profession, and courtesans, as they were called, were recorded as such in parish records. Like many other early modern cities, Rome was not particularly characterized by spatial segregation of economic activities. The basic Roman residential unit was the apartment, an organic unity of rooms that all occupied the same floor. Gender difference constitutes the final element of this social stratification. However, investigating material culture illustrates profound differences between women and men of the same social class.