In April 2018, Latin teacher Skye Shirley founded Lupercal as a reading group for women and gender non-binary Latinists in the Boston area.
Each meeting we work our way through a different woman’s Latin biography, indexed in 1374 by the Renaissance humanist Giovanni Boccaccio in his book De Mulieribus Claris. The long-dead language roars back to life as we use ancient words to connect to each woman’s story.
Queen Zenobia of Palmyra loved running in the woods, so we ask each other in Latin, What do you enjoy doing outdoors? The Roman writer Proba adored Virgil’s Aeneid: What texts bring you such joy? If you were, like Boccaccio, tasked with indexing the most noteworthy women of all time: Whom would you include and why?
At these meetings, a tenured university professor leans over to better hear a high-school senior share her insights about Cornificia, a Roman woman who spent her whole life writing works that were long ago lost.
We pass on more knowledge in these meetings than just Latin. We talk of husbands and wars, of children and old age. Some women nurse their babies while highlighting new vocabulary. Others arrive at the door knowing no one, but having heard about Lupercal through Twitter. Many of us look forward to these meetings all month. Above all, we read about women, with women, while practicing spoken Latin.
So many women around the country requested to start groups of their own that now the group is in over a dozen different cities. We are truly becoming a global community, from making friends more easily at conferences to brainstorming discussion questions via conference call across four time zones.
Many members find that, when they move to a new city and leave a Lupercal group, a new Lupercal community of warm, intellectual Latinists is ready to welcome them. Younger members find mentorship, whereas older members find a community of women eager to learn from their experiences. Above all, we find a group we look forward to returning to every month. We are grateful for every donation so that we can continue this essential work!