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  • I Was Italy's First Female Lawyer
    Who Am I?

    by Anthony Parente

    I was born on August 26th, 1855, in Traverse, a hamlet in Perrero, which is a comune in Turin, Piedmont. I am the daughter of Giovanni Pietro and Marianna Richard wealthy rural owners, and I was the youngest of four brothers and three sisters. I spent my childhood in the Valle Germanasca, a valley close to Turin.

    I attended a boarding school in Aubonne, Switzerland where I obtained my teachers license in 1871. Three years later as a teacher of English, German, and French. When I returned home, I convinced my family to let me attend high school. In 1877 I obtained my licenza liceale, which was needed for me to pursue studying at a university.

    I attended the University of Turin and in June 1881 I defended my thesis "Studio sulla condizione della donna rispetto al diritto costituzionale ed al diritto amministrativo nelle elezioni" (Study on the condition of women with respect to constitutional law and administrative law in elections) and earned my law degree. I took and passed all the necessary examinations to become a solicitor and applied for membership in the Turin Bar Association. I was accepted in August 1883, and I became the first woman in Italy to practice law. This did not go over well as I was entering a profession that was strictly male at the time. The office of the Attorney General filed a complaint with the Court of Appeal of Turin. They argued women were forbidden by law and public policy to practice law in Italy. Even though other countries had female lawyers the Court of Appeal agreed with the filing, and I was disbarred three months later. I appealed the decision, but it was upheld.

    I did not let this stop me as I continued my legal work within my brother's law firm doing everything except plead cases in court and sign letters. I dedicated my life to helping minors, women, and prisoners. I was a member of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Donne Italiane (the National Council of Italian Women) and fought for the emancipation of women in Italy. I participated in the International Penitentiary Congresses advocating for the rights of prisoners. I helped promote the creation of juvenile courts and addressing the issue of prisoner rehabilitation.

    Thankfully, Law n. 1176 was issued by the Italian Parliament on 17th July 1919 to acknowledge the juridical capacity of women, by abolishing the legal arrangement of marital authorization and opening the door of the labour market for women. The following year at the age of 65 I re-registered with the Turin Bar Association and was accepted.

    In 2023 Netflix ran a six-episode series inspired by my true story.

    I died on February 25, 1949, in Diano Marina a comune in the Province of Imperia in the Italian region of Liguria.

    For those of you who have not figured out my identity I wish to introduce myself.

    My name is Lidia Poët and below you can find more information about my life and my accomplishments.

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