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A celebration of Elena Cornaro Piscopia, the first woman to obtain a doctorate that includes a visiting lecture and an original theater piece by Kairos Italy Theater.

2018 marks the 340th anniversary of the conferring of a doctorate degree to a woman for the first time in history. On June 25th, 1678 Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, member of a Venetian patrician family, brilliantly defended her dissertation in front of university professors, political dignitaries, and common folks. This milestone in the history of women’s achievements has been immortalized in the central stained-glass window of the Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library, at Vassar College.

On November 9, 2018 Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia’s anniversary will be celebrated in the same library with a lecture and theatrical performance dedicated to her life. Both events aim to go beyond Piscopia’s most renown achievement, and show the complexity of her personality: her lifelong spiritual search, unquenched desire for learning, commitment to knowledge, and steadfast coherence in her beliefs. Both events are free and open to the public.

The lecture will be given at 5:30pm in the Class of 1951 Reading Room by Professor Patrizia Bettella . Bettella (University of Alberta, Canada) is the author of The Ugly Woman: Transgressive Aesthetic Models in Italian Poetry from the Middle Ages to the Baroque (2005). She has recently published the article: “Women and the Academies in Seventeenth-Century Italy: Elena Lucreazia Cornaro Piscopia’s Role in Literary Acasdemies” (2018). At present she is working on a new article on Cornaro Piscopia, titled “Cornaro Piscopia and the Mouches Galantes.”

The Most Learned Woman
is an original theater piece that tells the story of Elena Cornaro Piscopia, developed by Laura Caparrotti, Artistic Director of the Kairos Italy Theater. Her story starts in Venice, in a beautiful palace on the water. Voices of her life are told by a narrator who is going to bring the audience back to 1600, while a violin will gives voice to Elena’s feelings.The play will be performed in the Cornaro Room in Thompson Library at 7:30pm.

To reserve tickets, please visit or email

Presented with the support of the Vassar College Libraries, the Creative Arts Across Disciplines, the Italian Department, the Dean of Faculty Office, The Office of Alumnae/i Engagement, and the Garnsey Fund.

Vassar College strives to make its events, performances, and facilities accessible to all. Individuals with disabilities requiring special accommodations must contact the Office of Campus Activities at least 48 hours in advance of an event, Mondays-Fridays, at (845)437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space / and or assistance may not be available. For detailed information about accessibility to specific campus facilities, sear for "campus accessibility information" on the Vassar homepage

Directions to the Vassar campus, located at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie, NY, are available at

Posted by Office of Communications Tuesday, October 9, 2018