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Veronica Gambara was born on November 29, 1485 in Pralboino, Lombardy, Italy. Her mother was Alda Pio da Carpi and her father Count Gianfrancesco da Gambara. Her family was distinguished intellectually and they were patrons of the arts. Her Aunt Isotta Nogarola suffered much criticism for being a woman intellectual. Her grandmother Ginevera Rangone was a poetess and and is reported to have commissioned a portrait from Correggio which hangs in the Hermitage st. Petersburg Russia....a portrait sometimes identified as that of Veronica Gamabara.
1485 Veronica Gambara was born in Pralboino, Italy. (See family notes above) She recieved a full humanistic education: Greek and Latin language and literature, philosophy, and Patristic theology. Like many in her family she was a well rounded intellectual.
1508 She was betrothed to a cousin, Giberto X, Count of Correggio, a man almost twice her age who had two daughters from his first marriage. It appears that Veronica and Giberto were quite compatible.
1509 She and Giberto marry in Amalfi and the couple go to Correggio to live.
1510 Their first son, Ippoito is born.
1511Their second son, Girolamo is born.
1512 Veronica Gambara's father dies and she returns to Brescia for the funeral. While she was there, the city was sacked by the French, and she had escaped only after hiding out for several days. Constant warring between French and the Hapsburgs defines the social situation in Northern Italy for some time.
1515 The new French king, Francis I, came to Italy. He and Gambara meet and became friends but soon the Hapsburgs exert their might and Northern Italy is again a war zone.
1518 Giberto dies on August 26 and Veronica mourns this loss in letters that show a sense of desperation at his death. She went into full mourning, wearing widow's black and grieving his death in her poetry. She had the following lines from Virgil's Aenid carved over her door:
"For I must tell you, Anna, since the time Sychaeus, my poor husband, died and my own brother splashed our household gods with blood, Aeneas is the only man to move my feelings, to overturn my shifting heart. I know too well the signs of the old flame. But I should call upon the earth to gape and close above me, or on the almighty Father to take his thunderbolt, to hurl me down into the shades, the pallid shadows and deepest night of Erebus, before I'd violate you, Shame, or break your laws! For he who first had joined me to himself has carried off my love, and may he keep it and be its guardian within the grave." She spoke. Her breast became a well of tears.
But Veronica Gambara did not just give up. She turned her energies to the education and welfare of her sons. Ippoito enters the military and Girolamo moves through politics, the military and eventually becomes a cardinal. She also helped Giberto's two daughters to marry - apparently supplying them with the necessary dowry. All this was done while governing Correggio - something she did successfully.....managing to move through the politically treacherous shifts in military dominance by the French and the Hapsburghs (whose family ruled Germany & Spain) relying at times on the intervention of the Pope.
1521 She was corresponding with Charles V.
1522 She visits Parma.
1524 She travels to Ferrara and Venice, and then returns to Correggio.
1530 She was at the coronation of Charles V in Bologna and it is reported that she helped arrange a temporary reconciliation between warring factions.
1533 Charles V visits her in Correggio, and signs a treaty in which he promises that the city would not again be besieged - a promise soon broken.
1538 She organizes the defense of Corregio when it was besieged. she brought in grain to feed the people during a famine which followed.
1541 She writes to Ludovico Rossi "We are in such a bad state that if God doesn't help us, I suspect the majority of people in this land will die of hunger. I send this epistle to tell you of our complete need, see if it is possible to obtain grain from Romagna and tell me the price, because I am resolved, whether out of duty or pity [also piety], that I shall take upon myself the task of succoring my people..."
In her last years she 'retires' and is less involved politically. She devotes herself to travel, to enjoying the gardens surrounding her palace and to cultivating friendships via letters.
1550 Veronic Gambara dies on June 13, 1550.
NOTE: Much information in this Chronology came from Ellen Moodly's web site about continental women writers
Veronica Gambara is not the first person to 'do philosophy' via poetry. She often uses ancient moral and political philosophy in her approach to contemporary issues. For anyone interested in the intersection of philosophy, practical politics and poetry Veronica Gambara's work is well worth reading in its entirety. This remarkable woman uses her talents to engage in governance and the social responsibilities of a compassionate ruler.
Here are some examples of the Works of Veronica Gambara:
Some of her writings engage in political philosophy and strive to effect political change. See: Quella felice stella e in ciel fatale in English and Italian.
Veronica Gambara e la poesia del suo tempo nellItalia Settentrionale: Atti del convegno (Brescia, Correggio, 17-19 ottobre 1985) (Biblioteca dell Archivium ... Serie 1, storia, letteratura, paleografia) Another resource is the web site Other Womens Voices....however links to the site will not open so you need to do a SEARCH to find this excellent web site.
This page was last updated 12/18/14.
Society for the Study of Women Philosophers