It may be regarded as a peculiar characteristic of the fifteenth and still more of the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth centuries, that the enthusiasm for the sciences and the learned languages among women of the higher ranks was strongest and most general; that at the very time when the majority of the princes and nobles despised men of learning as clerks, and regarded the sciences as degrading to their dignity, women of the highest distinction patronized literature and the arts with the most lively interest; that queens and princesses so far from being ashamed, thought it an honor to be a poetesses and writers; and that those of the female sex who had received no instruction in the learned languages and the scholastic sciences at least made themselves mistresses of the best works of mother tongue with elegance and precision, and to form correct opinions on the productions of wit and taste as on men and things.
Spread of Learning
The country in which the classic languages were first revived was the portion of the European continent in which ladies of distinction first aspired to the newly discovered treasures of ancient wisdom. The examples of the Italian women soon excited the emulation
of their fair and enlightened sisters in France, England, Spain, and Germany.
To the honor of the French women, it must be said, that, in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, they distinguished themselves above all others by their accomplishments in general, and their literary talents in particular, and in consequence they justly became the patterns of their sex throughout all Europe.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.