Bettisia Gozzadini (1209 – 1261), Doctor of Laws from the University of Bologna, was probably the first woman to be appointed as a professor at a university.
Daughter of Adelasia de Pegolotti and Amadore Gozzadini, Bettisia Gozzadini was born in 1209 in Bologna, whose University is considered the oldest in Europe. From her youth, Bettisia devoted herself to studies. Whether as a result of social pressure or personal choice, she dresses as a man to avoid problems.
Bettisia first studied philosophy, then law with the masters Odofrède, Giacomo Baldavino and Tancredi Arcidiacono. Favorably impressed by his intellectual abilities, they encouraged him to take his doctorate in law, and Bettisia obtained it with flying colors in June 1236.
The first teacher
For two years, Bettisia Gozzadini taught law from home. As the number of her students increased, the University of Bologna offered her a professorship, which she initially declined, before finally accepting. She may have had to wear a veil while teaching so as not to “distract her students.” Bettisia teaches at the University and, sometimes, in the squares of the city. In 1242, it was she who pronounced the eulogy at the funeral of the bishop of Bologna Enrico della Fratta; the one who appointed her to the University.
Bettisia died on November 2, 1261, along with two other women and four students, in the collapse of a house caused by the flood of the Idice. After his death, schools in the city are closed to observe a period of general mourning. Bettisia Gozzadini is considered the first woman to teach at a university.