Following a successful lobby by Paduan feminist Anna Piva, the world’s first doctoral graduate will be honoured with a public statue. Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia graduated from Padua university in 1678.
The northern city of Padua, south of Venice, is to get its first female statue in one of the largest public squares in Europe, Prato della Valle. The statue will honour the world’s first woman doctoral graduate, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia.
Prato della Valle
The largest square in Italy, Prato della Valle has a green island at its centre, l’Isola Memmia, surrounded by a small canal bordered by two rings of statues. There are currently 78 statues there, all of which are of men.
All of the represented have contributed to the development of the arts, sciences, business, and politics of Padua or have achieved significant success as alumni of the renowned University of Padua. They range from Savonarola to Galileo, Livy, Mantegna, Petrarch and Tasso.
Piscopia became a doctor in philosophy at Padua university on June 25, 1678. She was the first woman in the world to graduate with a doctorate. Celebrated for her learning, Piscopia – aka Helen Cornaro – was an Italo-Albanian Venetian of noble descent.
Paduan activist Anna Piva successfully lobbied two centre-left councillors to table a motion in her favour. The city council approved the motion on Monday night. The centre-left voted in favour with the centre-right abstaining. There had been considerable debate regarding the proposal.