Strozzi, Alessandra Macinghi ca.1407–1471 Florentine Letter Writer

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Strozzi, Alessandra Macinghi
ca.1407–1471 Florentine letter writer

Alessandra Macinghi Strozzi of Florence wrote an extensive and unique collection of letters to her sons during the mid-1400s. These letters provide a firsthand account of the life of a Renaissance woman, as well as a glimpse of the social and political climate of Florence during that time.

Born into an upper-class Florentine family, Alessandra received the basic education common for women of her standing. In 1422 she married a merchant named Matteo Strozzi. After 12 years of marriage and several children, her husband was exiled to the Italian city of Pesaro for being a political opponent of the ruling Medici family. His family followed him into exile, and soon afterward Matteo and three of the couple's children died of the plague*. Alessandra returned to Florence a few months later. She never remarried, and she spent a great deal of her time trying to arrange good marriages for her children and to establish her sons in business.

Seventy-three of Alessandra's letters to her sons in other cities survive today. A keen observer, Alessandra reported on current political events and circumstances. She also offered ordinary details such as food prices and the family's financial situation. Alessandra's letters show that she was a devoted mother, though like most Renaissance mothers, she was closer to her sons than to her daughters. As one of few large collections of correspondence written by a woman, these letters provide an intimate look into the life of a Florentine family that few other sources can offer.

(See alsoMedici, House of; Women. )

* plague

highly contagious and often fatal disease that wiped out much of Europe's population in the mid-1300s and reappeared periodically over the next three centuries; also known as the Black Death