Ms. Katy Ferrari recently received a Fulbright Research Fellowship for academic year 2018-2019 to conduct doctoral research in Turin, Italy. Dr. Matthew Vester is Ms. Ferrari’s doctoral advisor at WVU, and her Fulbright host in Italy is Dr. Angelo Torre at the University of Eastern Piedmont. Ms. Ferrari’s dissertation project, “When is Law Enough? Women, Patronage, and Politics in the Early Modern Italian Law Courts,” focuses on the nexus between the early modern state, its legal institutions, and patronage ties by studying lawsuits in which elite women in seventeenth-century Turin asserted their inheritance claims against other family members. In these contentious lawsuits, the private mixed with the political as women looked for support from powerful patrons at the court of the duke of Savoy to influence their legal battles. This study examines the extent to which courtly patrons exerted power in lawsuits to shift the balance of justice. This project will enhance our understanding of early modern political culture and women’s “social” citizenship prior to their achievement of political rights.
In Turin, Ms. Ferrari will be working in the State Archives, City Archives, and Royal Library, which contain a wealth of judicial and family archives that are particularly complete for the seventeenth century, but have been underexploited by scholars. The family archives contain records of litigation, dowries, marriages, family accounts, sales, testaments, and correspondence over generations of family life. Other sources include the Senate (high court) records and the household accounts of the dukes and duchesses of Savoy, where members of the families Ms. Ferrari is studying held prestigious positions and networked with other patricians. In addition, Ms. Ferrari will be using the archives of the “Fondazione 1563” in Turin, which holds the records of Le sorelle dell’Umiltà, a female confraternity that was often led by the duchess herself and was a mark of prestige for Torinese noblewomen. Together, these various archives provide a remarkable array of sources for tracing the lives, kinship networks and legal strategies of individual women. Historians are currently engaged in exciting discussions about women, kinship, and politics in early modern Europe, and Ms. Ferrari is eager to bring the women of Turin into the debate.
Ms. Ferrari’s doctoral research is also supported by the Department of History, the Eberly College and the Winifred South Knutti Graduate Scholarship from the Center for Women and Gender Studies at WVU, as well as by a Wellesley College Graduate Fellowship. Her peers and professors are extremely proud of her success.