Marymount - International School Rome
Marymount - International School Rome
Marymount - International School Rome
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Who was Lidia Poët, the first female Italian lawyer that inspired the new Netflix series

Who was Lidia Poët?

Lidia Poët endured humiliation and sacrifice to pursue her desire to be a lawyer, and she ultimately succeeded.   

From Turin, she was the first woman in Italy to register as a lawyer. She was disbarred  precisely because she was a woman, but she found a way to continue her work. 

It was not until she was 65 that she was finally able to rejoin the Bar.

Netflix has dedicated a 6-episode series called "The Law of Lidia Poët”, that tells her story as a modern woman born in the wrong century, due out today (15 February) and starring actress Matilda De Angelis.

But who was this woman really, about whom, all things considered, not much is known? 

Born in 1855 into a wealthy Waldensian family (a Protestant denomination active in Italy and Switzerland), Lidia Poët spent her childhood in the Valle Germanasca, not far from Turin. 

She studied in Switzerland, at the College of the Misses of Bonneville in Aubonne, and earned a license to be a High School Teacher, then a second certificate as a Teacher of English, German and French. 

Back in Italy, she also earned her high school diploma, then enrolled in law school at the University of Turin.

She graduated in law, arguing a thesis on the condition of women in society and the right to vote for women, then practiced law in Pinerolo, in the office of lawyer and senator Cesare Bertea.  

She passed her practicum (with a mark of 45/50) and the bar exam, then applied for membership in the Turin Bar Association. 

Two lawyers, in protest, resigned from the bar after the application was put to a vote and granted with 8 votes in favor and 4 against. 

According to President Xavier Francesco Vegezzi and four other councilors, "under Italian civil laws women are citizens like men," and on 9 August, 1883, Lidia Poët became the first Italian woman admitted to the practice of law.

The ruling of the Court of Appeals 

Soon after, however, the Attorney General of the - then - Kingdom of Italy challenged the Order's decision and appealed to the Court of Appeals of Turin. On 11 November, 1883, ordered the disbarment.  

"It is evident from this that it was always in the concept of the legislature that the position of lawyer was an office exercisable only by males and in which females were not to meddle at all (...). It is equally valid today as it was then, because today it would also be unseemly and ugly to see women descending into the forensic gymnasium, agitating themselves in the midst of the clamor of public judgments, becoming heated in discussions that easily transmogrify, and in which, in spite of themselves, they could be drawn beyond the limits that the gentler sex is expected to observe,” reads the judgment of the Court of Appeals, according to which women "may well have to ponder whether it would really be an advancement and an achievement for them to be able to compete with men, to go mixed up among them, to become their equals rather than their companions, as providence intended them to be."

Lidia Poët, however, never gave in to this view, and continued her legal work with her brother John Henry, although she could not advocate in the courts. 

She was especially committed to defending the rights of children, the marginalized and women, and also advocated for women's suffrage.

In 1920, at age 65, after the enactment of Law 1176 of 1919, which allowed women to enter some public offices, she was finally able to re-register with the Turin Bar Association.

She never married, and died in the beachside town of Diano Marina, aged 94.

 

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Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
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