In the spring of 1672, in Milan, Angela Visconti was convicted for having forced her fifteen-year-old daughter, Margherita, into prostitution. The case of Angela and Margherita Visconti demonstrates the ways in which sexuality and prostitution could and often needed to be employed by large strata of poor women to escape misery and to reduce the gap between their standard of living and that of the higher classes. In the life of the lower orders, it did not represent an exceptional and disturbing feature; rather, it was a necessary survival strategy to adopt in particularly difficult periods. The trial also offers intimate insight into how the moral norms of the Counter-Reformation, despite their permeation in all aspects of seventeenth-century society, could be challenged for the pursuit of material benefits.
- Seventeenth century