Accademia di architettura

A useful, delightful, and good reading : how Maria and Antonia Ponti conceived a library for women

Zonca, Elisabetta

In: Collections : A journal for museum and archives professionals, 2018, vol. 14, no. 3, p. 299–314

In the second half of 19th century, newborn Italy was invaded by innovative ideas supported by democratic, liberal, and socialist intellectuals who wanted to renew social life, economy, and moral values by spreading their ideas both in politics and in everyday life. Right-wing reaction used the same methods of communication and persuasion: the publication of journals and books and their... More

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    Summary
    In the second half of 19th century, newborn Italy was invaded by innovative ideas supported by democratic, liberal, and socialist intellectuals who wanted to renew social life, economy, and moral values by spreading their ideas both in politics and in everyday life. Right-wing reaction used the same methods of communication and persuasion: the publication of journals and books and their promotion in reading cabinets and public libraries. Maria and Antonia Ponti, two upper-middle-class sisters who married into aristocracy, used their influence and resources to advance the status of women in society. They founded associations and libraries (in Ravenna, Imola, and Bergamo) with the theoretical support of a network of Italian intellectuals, including Corrado Ricci, Vilfredo Pareto, and Maffeo Pantaleoni. The philanthropic actions of the sisters, who combined their Catholic and conservative point of view with the improvement of the condition of women, have handed down a remarkable legacy in the form of books and a collection of laces.
    Riassunto
    Dopo l’unificazione politica dell’Italia si attesta la diffusione di idee innovative, sostenute da liberali, democratici e socialisti, che miravano a rinnovare la società, l’economia e la morale nella sua componente politica come nella vita quotidiana. In reazione a questa propaganda i conservatori utilizzarono gli stessi strumenti di comunicazione e persuasione: la pubblicazione di giornali e libri a cui seguiva la loro diffusione grazie anche ai gabinetti di lettura e alle biblioteche popolari. Maria e Antonia Ponti, due esponenti dell’alta borghesia, entrambe sposate con degli aristocratici, usarono la loro influenza e le loro risorse per migliorare il ruolo delle donne. Fondarono associazioni e biblioteche (queste ultime a Ravenna, Bergamo e Imola) con il supporto di una rete di intellettuali tra cui spiccano Corrado Ricci, Vilfredo Pareto e Maffeo Pantaleoni. L’attività filantropica delle sorelle Ponti, che combinava le loro radici cattoliche e conservatrici con la volontà di cambiare la condizione femminile, ha lasciato una traccia e un’eredità che prendono forma nella collezione di merletti e libri.