Women, wealth and finance.(19th century Italy)
The paper provides some new evidence on the economic role and position of women in nineteenth century Italy, especially pointing out their financial resources and choices. In 1865, the introduction of a new civil code in the Italian Kingdom corroborated women’s dependence from men. Wives needed their husband’s authorization both to handle autonomously their own property and entering in trade. Women on the whole were hindered to practise liberal professions and they had no free access to secondary schools. However, as equitable inheritance was stated and sons and daughters had acquired -more or less- the same rights on their parents’ property, women’s proprietorship was not occasional nor trifling at the time. The share of wealth detained by women is the first question the paper focus on. Then attention turns to the financial assets held by women: inferences on their investment behaviour are drawn and compared with that of men. Some considerations on women’s function in the credit market finally follow. The research is based on fiscal sources, estate and income tax returns. More precisely, all the papers recorded at the Registar Office of Milan in the period 1862-1900 have been taken into account and a data base including personal information and gross amount of the estate has been built. Besides, a list of taxpayers published by the Ministry of Finance in 1872 has been considered and analysed. The figures resulting from the elaboration of the available information show, on one hand, the expected high degree of gender inequality, on the other hand, the significant weight of female wealth. On the whole the value of women’s property is re-evaluated and the significance of women financial activity is , also with regard to Italy, assessed.
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