This illustrates how recently in history English speaking women have gained the right to openly display their talents, how hard won these gains have been. These rights can just be as easily be lost unless we remain vigilant.
Aemilia Bassano Lanier (also spelled Lanyer) is the heroine of my new novel The Dark Lady’s Mask. Born in 1569, she was the highly educated daughter of an Italian court musician—a man thought to have been a Marrano, a secret Jew living under the guise of a Christian convert. She may have also been the mysterious, musical Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets, although most academic scholars dispute this. What we do know for a fact and what really matters is that she was the first woman in England to pursue a career as a published poet.
In Italy women such as Isabella Andreini published plays and poetry on a wide variety of secular subjects, but in England Lanier effectively had only one option—to write devotional Protestant verse. Her English literary predecessors, Anne Locke and Mary Sidney, wrote poetic meditations on the Psalms.
But Lanier turned this…
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