In times of Frédéric Ozanam, women were virtually absent from the university. That is why, having emerged the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in the vicinity of the Parisian university, in its early days women did not participate in it.
The first female Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded in Bologna (Italy), January 10, 1856, by Celestina Scarabelli: in 1855, in the city of Bologna, there was a serious outbreak of cholera, and the fellow members of the Society were doing everything possible to help families affected by the disease and those in hospitals. However, at that time, due to a rule of the Society (Article 2 of Rules) men could not visit single women, especially if they were young. They were helped through family and friends of the women.
The then president, Antonio Costa, shared the problem with Celestina Scarabelli, a very interesting woman of the time, with a vast literary and scientific culture, charity and virtue example in her time, according to the chronicles. She offered to guarantee assistance to sick women. The commitment of these women was much appreciated and Antonio did not want to frustrate their experience, offering them to create a women’s conference, following the example of the conferences of men.
It took more than 100 years until both branches, male and female, were merged on October 20, 1967.
Ozanam was, already in his time, a great defender of women. You can read this in his letters and in his books.
Author: Juan Manuel Gómez,
vice-president, SSVP in Spain.
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