Baloney or Bologna?

A progressive lady of my acquaintance has characterized my statement in the last post, that “a certain minority of talented women have always flourished outside the home,” as — and I quote — “Baloney!” She notes that prior to the Great War, women were not admitted to British universities, or practically anywhere else in the English-speaking world.

To this, one must inevitably reply, “Bologna!” — alluding of course to the ancient Italian town, whose university, developed from a law school, has been admitting students of both sexes from across Europe for at least one thousand years, and rather more if we take it back to the foundation by Theodosius in 425. One remembers among its professors for instance the learned (and very beautiful) Novella d’Andrea in the 14th century; or Laura Bassi, the illustrious mathematician and physicist; or Signora Mazzolini, the incisive anatomist; or Clotilda Tambroni the poetess, philologist, and Greek classicist.

It is true that a major feature of the Protestant Reformation consisted of closing women out of academic and other areas of public life. One thinks of John Knox, and his pamphlet, First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, and other expostulations of that kind from the old anti-Catholic propaganda. But as Catholics we can hardly be held accountable for it: his was the very sort of narrowness we were fighting.

As the former prime ministrix of France, Édith Cresson, pointed out to reporters back in 1991, there has always been something of a problem with “Anglo-Saxon men.” Asked what she meant by an American reporter, she explained that, “They aren’t really men, they are all homosexual.” (As there was some surprise at this remark, she then qualified it by saying, “Well, not all the Anglo-Saxon men, of course. Perhaps only 35 or 40 percent. But you know what I mean.”)