Who is Lidia Poët. The first Italian lawyer

The law prevented her from practicing the profession. But she never gave up, until she was admitted to the bar. And now books and even a TV series remember his great battle

ANDBe the first to try something requires a great pioneering spirit. Being the first, for women, sometimes requires a sort of heroic vocation. This is the case of Lidia Poët, who was the first Italian lawyer. Lawyer. Lawyer. Now there is a dispute over the name, even if Crusca took a position some time ago: a lawyer, it is perfectly correct, then each one should be called whatever she prefers

Lidia Poët (1855-1949) was one of the first women in Italy to graduate in Law, in 1881. Only in 1920 was she allowed to sponsor causes

In Lydia’s time, however, the problem was not the name, but the substance: that is, whether it was permissible for a woman to exercise a certain profession. At the time of Lidia, who was born in 1855: we are not talking about the Middle Ages, but about the day before yesterday in history. About her The story of her tells the beautiful book of a brilliant lawyer of our times, Chiara Viale. She’s titled Lydia and the others and is published by Guerini

The interview with Lidia Poët from Corriere della Sera of December 4, 1883

Lidia was born into a wealthy family of Waldensian origin in Val Germanasca, in the Pinerolo area. Hard, mountainous land, which is worked with great effort, so much so that a visiting French chronicler writes: «In these lands it is sometimes necessary to rebuild the field, collecting the earth at the foot of the mountain, carrying it back on one’s shoulders to the top, waiting for the following years the same earth, dragged down again, is carried back up again, a second, a third time, indefinitely»

Matilda De Angelis in the Netflix series “The law of Lidia Poët”

Matilda De Angelis in the Netflix series “The law of Lidia Poët” (photo Lucia Iuorio/Netflix © 2023)

It is the perfect metaphor for what Lidia will have to do throughout her life, cultivating the blessed fixation of becoming a lawyer. When at the age of 13, blonde, beautiful and talented, the last of eight brothers and sisters, she declares that she wants to go to high school (as, moreover, the male brothers have already done or are doing), the father has no doubts: «Let him knit stockings and, if he’s really hungry for science, get a teacher’s diploma, like the others do». Point

After the master’s degree, also the high school diploma

At the moment, Lidia is sketching. She takes her master’s degree and in the meantime her father passes away when she is 17 years old. So she convinces her widowed mother and her brothers, taking them out of exhaustion, to also let her achieve high school diploma

AND then he goes to the University of Turin: after a brief taste of Medicine he goes to Law, «even supported by his lawyer brother Giovanni Enrico. And she is accompanied by him who, passing between two wings of curious companions of that strange girl dressed in light blue, Lidia crosses the entrance door of the Faculty of Law and makes history », Chiara Viale tells us

Chiara Viale’s book “Lidia and the others” (176 pages, 19 euros, Guerini publisher) tells her story and contains in the appendix the two appeal and Cassation sentences of 1883 and 1884, a grotesque concentrate of misogynistic clichés of millennia of history

Lydia has no problems: on June 17, 1881 she graduated with honors discussing a thesis entitled “Condition of women with respect to constitutional law and administrative law in elections”

The newspapers, communicating the news, are keen to highlight that the new doctor is not a “woody spinster” but a young woman who has known how to “become an erudite without renouncing feminine graces”. It almost seems like a happy ending, but it’s just the beginning of a struggle that will last a lifetime. Because now, with a piece of paper in hand, the fun begins

Lidia is not interested in her academic career, so on 25 July she enrolls in the trainee register and goes to the law firm of progressive senator Cesare Bertea, also from Pinerolo and a friend of the family. Lidia carries out her two-year apprenticeship there and in May 1883 he passed the exam with 45/50. Everything seems to be in order: now he can enroll in the Order and begin to practice the profession

It is the first time in the history of the recent Kingdom of Italy that a woman has asked to be admitted to the Register. The Order of Turin accepts your request with an historic decision, 8 votes in favor against 4 against. The fact caused a stir and the two main opponents, the lawyer Spantigati and the lawyer Chiaves (one from the left and one from the right!), resigned in protest

Matilda De Angelis in the Netflix series “The law of Lidia Poët”

Matilda De Angelis in the Netflix series “The law of Lidia Poët” (photo Lucia Iuorio/Netflix © 2023)

The controversy flared up. On 6 September 1883, the Attorney General of the King, Giuseppe Moggi, challenged the registration of Lidia before the Court of Appeal of Turin affirming that the fact that the law which regulates the profession of lawyer does not expressly exclude women does not mean that it admits them: «Women can be teachers or doctors but, in this case, it is a question of “attributions which, due to their nature and entities, are very different from those that summarize the patronage for which a noble and arduous mandate is indispensable which, to carry it out properly, requires robust ingenuity, breadth of doctrine, tireless industriousness»

On 11 November 1883, the Court of Appeal accepted the request of the prosecutor and ordered the cancellation from the register of Lidia. The Court of Cassation will confirm the decision of the Court of Appeal: women cannot practice law as the legal profession is a “public office”, and therefore the admission of women to public offices had to be explicitly provided for by law and not given silent assent

Lidia Poët's law | Official Teaser | Netflix

It was completely inappropriate for women to be called upon to discuss topics embarrassing for “honest maidens”; or that they wore the toga over their often strange and bizarre clothes at the behest of fashion, perhaps inducing the judges to favor a particularly “pretty” lawyer. Then there was the natural reserve of the female sex, the physical frailty and the physiological lack of firmness, severity and constancy to be taken into consideration

Despite the support of most of the newspapers, despite her impassioned declarations and her detailed appeals, Lidia Poët cannot be a lawyer. Only «Miss Lidia Poët, graduated in law» remains, and also has to pay the legal fees. But he doesn’t give up: he will have his beautiful desk in his brother Giovanni Enrico’s law office, where he will deal above all, in addition to women, with minors, the marginalized and prisoners, also supporting the cause of the female vote

Every day she is at her workplace, elegant, smiling, available, full of enthusiasm. Customers love it. Week after week, month after month, consulting codes and writing with the beautiful golden pen, Miss Poët actually practices law, but behind the sceneswithout a title, without official recognition, “drawing up deeds and opinions that he could not sign for causes he could not discuss”

Years go by. Her blonde hair turns gray. To his daily silent war is added, full-blown, the First World War. She becomes a Red Cross nurse and deserves a silver medal in the field

“Lydia Poët. A modern woman. From the toga denied to the female path in the legal professions” by Clara Bounous (LAReditore)

At 65 the turning point: he was able to enroll in the register

And then the turning point. «On 17 July 1919, the law abrogated the institution of marital authorization and, in article 7, provided: “Women are admitted, on an equal footing with men, to exercise all professions and to cover all public jobs, except, unless expressly permitted by law, those who employ public jurisdictional powers or the exercise of political duties and powers or pertain to the defense of the State”. In short, anything but political, military or magistrate but that’s another story» writes Chiara Viali. We will have to wait until 1963 for women to enter the judiciary

In 1920, at the age of 65, Lidia was able to enroll in the register: Miss Poët was finally the lawyer Poët. She will have time ahead to enjoy her victory: she will die very old, at 94, in 1949, and she will be buried in her valley

Matilda De Angelis fighting for rights

Matilda De Angelis in the Netflix series “The law of Lidia Poët”

Matilda De Angelis in the Netflix series “The law of Lidia Poët” (photo Lucia Iuorio/Netflix © 2023)

“If God wanted you to be a lawyer, he didn’t make you a woman…”: this is how the new Netflix series starts. The story of Lidia Poët arouses growing interest. Only in 2022, in addition to the book by Chiara Viale cited here, two other texts have analyzed the figure of the first female lawyer in Italy: Lidia Poët. A modern woman. From the toga denied to the female path in the juridical professions by Clara Bounous (LAReditor) e Lidia Poët. Life and battles of the first Italian lawyer, pioneer of women’s emancipation by Cristina Ricci (Grahot publisher).

Receive news and updates
on the last ones
beauty trends
straight to your mail

“Lydia Poët. Life and battles of the first Italian lawyer, pioneer of female emancipation” by Cristina Ricci (Graphot publisher)

From February 15, Matilda De Angelis will give the lawyer a face and voice in the six-episode series Lidia Poët’s law available on Netflix. It opens with the sentence of the Court of Appeal of Turin which declares Lidia’s registration in the register of lawyers illegitimate and outlines the “after”, the tenacious battle to see their rights recognized against those who argued “if God wanted you a lawyer , did not make you a woman» and the work in his brother’s studio


PREV Gualdo Tadino, the Christmas events begin today with the lighting of the tree and the lights
NEXT Spain-Italy on TV today: Nations League women’s football timetable, programme, probable lineups, streaming