By Skye Shirley
Lupercal has recently released a free packet of thirteen coloring pages, each featuring a different woman Latinist from Latin's over 2,600-year history. Whether you use them in your teaching or learning, give them to a child, or color them yourself (don't mind if I do...), you're probably curious about some of these women's lives.
I first heard of many of these writers in Jane Stevenson's book "Women Latin Poets" and although it was an incredible reading experience in itself, I've found even more joy in looking at the Latin written by these women, much of which is lying under-appreciated in pdf scans of early printed books, now deep in cyberspace. Considering how even Sulpicia, arguably the most famous Latin poetess, is unknown to many Latin teachers, I felt it would be fun and helpful to share these phenomenal stories with you.
SULPICIA (1st C. BCE) wealthy Augustan-era poetess living in Rome, originally included in the works of Tibullus. Yes, I gave her the empress Livia's hairstyle... Her poems describe her love of her boyfriend Cerinthus, who may be a real person or a stand-in for her love of writing (Cera meaning "wax" like a wax tablet for writing on).
PERPETUA (2nd C. C.E) early Christian martyr of Carthage in North Africa, who nursed her child in prison in the days before her death and wrote a testimony of her experiences and mystic visions.
EGERIA (4th C.) Christian nun who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the 380s and wrote about her experiences in the Itinerarium Egeriae. Philologists have observed that her travelogue reveals the transformation of ancient Latin into medieval Latin.
Stay on your toes-- peregrinor is a deponent, so the command is "peregrinare!"
ELEANOR OF AQUITAINE (1122-1204) As queen of France and England, she was one of the most powerful figures of the Middle Ages. Her letters in Latin to other courts and royals mark the use of Latin as correspondence among the power forces in Europe at the time.
BEATRIZ GALINDO (1465-1534) A Spanish educator so well-known for her gift with Latin, she was called "La Latina." Even today in Madrid there's a neighborhood, a street, and a Metro stop named after her, along with three statues of her throughout the city. She tutored Catherine of Aragon along with other royals, and wrote poetry as well as a commentary on Aristotle. Unfortunately, not a single word of her Latin has survived, but her legacy lives on!
OLYMPIA MORATA (1526-1555) Scholar of Greek and Latin from Ferrara, Italy. She wrote beautiful poems, compelling letters and rich dialogues conveying her personal opinions, religious views, and gender culture at the time. A prodigy of ancient languages, she was lecturing on Cicero by her teenage years!
MARTHA MARCHINA (1600-1648) Coming from a working-class background, Martha grew up in Naples, Italy and persevered in studying Latin despite class being a major roadblock to Latin studies at the time. Martha's family made soap and despite her extensive poetry collections, she was not published until after her death. As she lived her life in the shadow of Vesuvius, she wrote a poem about the volcano-- demanding that the Mt. Vesuvius finally explode again! Her poems cover topic as diverse as lives of the Saints and the pros and cons of adding cinnamon to recipes! What a gal.
SOR JUANA INÈZ DE LA CRUZ (1648-1695) Composer, writer, philosopher, and more, Sor Juana earned the name the "Phoenix of Mexico" for her extensive studies and accomplishments while living as a nun in a convent in Mexico City. She wrote in three languages: Spanish, Latin, and her mother tongue, Nahuatl. She is considered an early feminist and fought for the right to control her own life choices.
PHYLLIS WHEATLEY (1753-1784) She was the first African-American poet to publish her own book. From her early childhood in Africa to her living in slavery and eventually freedom in Boston, Phyllis endured incredible hardships all while writing beautiful, original poems. She felt connected to the poet Terrence because he, too, was said to be from Africa, and she translated and renovated Ovid's story of Niobe in the Metamorphoses into English.
LAURA BASSI (1711-1778) Laura was the first woman to receive a doctorate in science, from the University of Bologna in Italy, where she defended her dissertation in Latin while pregnant! Her work focused on physics, originally hydromechanics and hydrolic engineering. She had eight children while continuing to research and publish her discoveries.
HELEN M. CHESNUTT (1880-1969) She co-wrote The Road to Latin, an influential Latin textbook, and dedicated her life to teaching Latin at Central High School in Cleveland, Ohio. The book was ahead of its time in its inclusion of female characters and promotion of the oral presentation of Latin. One student of hers was the famous poet Langston Hughes!
EMMA VANDERPOOL (Viva!) Emma is a prolific Latin author whose novellae are deeply beloved by Latin teachers and students today. Her novels often center on female heroines and she has masterfully guided over 70 Lupercal members through our first-ever Latin Novella Writing Month this July.
And finally... Draw yourself using the template provided, or a woman Latinist you know!
Whom would you like to see illustrated? Comment below!