Wet-nurses and food disorders: notes from middle class Italy
between Eighteenth and Nineteenth century The author advances an interpretative hypothesis for the several food disorder that characterized the main illnesses of middle class women at the end of the Eighteenth century, and in particular the onset of anorexy. Challenging those interpretations that have linked together female fasts in different eras and in different contexts, the author looks at the “positive” role of that food that these women seemed to refuse so violently in their lives. The outcome of this analysis seems to suggest that it existed a body of rules about food tastes and appetites restricting women both in quality and quantity, which became increasingly favourable to female loss of appetite. On the other hand, in those same years, in a framework of domestic “competence” that was (ideally) totalising, the new duties of the wet-nurse were becoming more engaging for the woman, and, in practice, central to the definition of female identity in the middle class.