Gendering Geographies: Women and Maps in Early Modern Europe

AHA Session 15
Thursday, January 2, 2014: 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Columbia Hall 7 (Washington Hilton)
Amy M. Froide, University of Maryland Baltimore County
Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Session Abstract

Early modern exploration of the global presented Europeans with a dramatic opportunity to both define the world and articulate Europeans’ place in the natural order using cartographic imagery. As Valerie Traub demonstrated in her critical article, “Mapping the Global Body” (2000), the maps that they created indicated much more than just locations, they presented images of European cultural dominance, using sex and gender as focal points of European power.  However, women were more than merely images on maps and indicators of fertility, exploitation, and heterosexuality.  This panel is designed to open discussion and debate about the nexus of women and maps/cartography in Europe, c. 1500-1800.  Julie Sanders’ paper analyzes two tapestry maps commissioned by Mary Eyre from Rampton, a small village in the county of Nottinghamshire.  Sanders investigates not only the importance of tapestry maps and their specific location and function in early modern households, but also Mary Eyre’s commissioning role as another pivotal element in the narrative of these maps, enhancing understandings of elite female agency in the period. Focusing on Venice, a map-making center of the Renaissance, Genevieve Carleton argues that though women appear frequently in or on Renaissance maps, female map ownership in the period remains almost completely hidden.  Her paper considers Venetian women who, according to their household inventories, did own maps; Carlton also explores more broadly the interest in maps among Italian consumers. Using archival sources from Milan, Paris and Vienna related to the work of French astronomer and mapmaker César François Cassini de Thury, Madalina-Valeria Veres sheds light on the role played by Empress Maria Theresa in promoting the science of cartography. She investigates Maria Theresa’s role in as a patron of cartographic knowledge and the degree to which she was attempting to emulate the French model when ordering the mapping of the Habsburg provinces. Offering perspectives from a variety of European cultures, this session initiates a new dialogue about the direct and practical involvement of early modern women in both the production and the consumption of maps.

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