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Moderata Fonte was the pen name of Modesta Pozzo or Modesta di Pozzo di Forzi, born in the Republic of Venice. Her well-to-do parents, Girolamo Pozzo, a lawyer, and his wife Marietta dal Moro, died when she was a baby. She and her older brother were raised by their maternal grandmother. She was educated as a small child in the convent of Santa Marta and began writing at an early age. In her grandmother’s house, she learned Latin, drawing, singing, and how to play the lute and harpsichord from her brother. Her first published work was Tredici canti del Floridoro (Thirteen Cantos of Floridoro), an epic romance poem, which appeared in 1581. It was quickly followed by Le feste (The Feasts), a musical play performed for the Doge, and La passione di Christo (The Passion of Christ), a narrative poem. A year or two later, Modesta married Filippo di Zorzi, a lawyer, with whom she had four children. Her masterpiece was Il merito delle donne (The Worth of Women), whose second book was completed the day before her death. It was published posthumously in 1600. It is one of the earliest modern debates on gender roles written by a woman, along with The Nobility and Excellence of Women by her younger contemporary, Lucrezia Marinella, published in the same year.
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