It is known that the right environment is the key to a bright future: and certainly the Muliera Clara we're about to celebrate this week had the perfect upbringing for her time.
Daughter of the Roman orator Quintus Hortensius, Hortensia was born into a wealthy and educated family and thus had access to Latin and Greek literature. At the time, women could not hold any official position; a series of coincidences, however, allowed Hortensia to show off her rhetorical skills.
When Rome needed money for the war, the State realized that all men were already on the battlefield, so it was decided to tax the 1400 most wealthy women. Hortensia, as one of those women, was chosen by the others to articulate their concern and outrage in front of the triumvirs. During her speech, which Boccaccio reported praising her wit and reasoning, she questioned the double standard of excluding half of the population from public life and then demanding their money. “Why should we pay taxes when we have no part in the honors?”, she asked. The triumvirs, after unsuccessfully trying to silence her, reduced the number of women being taxed down to 400.
"Hortensia", illumination from the manuscript “Des cleres et nobles femmes”, ms. Royal 20 C V, f. 127v, first quarter of the 15th century, British Library, London.