A Retrospective of Feminine Criminality in Corsica over the 18th Century, Marie-Josée Cesarini-Dasso exposes ..

Marie-Josée Cesarini-Dasso (4)


There was certainly a motivating force behind my recent choice to communicate on this subject. The fact is, I had read an article that had captivated my full attention, by Marie-Josée CesariniDasso – criminologist, lawyer and furthermore, author – also having consecrated her thesis on the feminine criminal world during the 18th century.Presently residing between Corsica and Nice, she has been rewarded by the European Academy of Science/Arts, (which includes seventy Nobel prizewinners) and is a continual correspondent for UNESCO.

The question can be asked, why as of that particular century?

to which is the answer is, because of the lack of archives beforehand – here, one discovers the situating/retracing (in particular) of Corsican women through time. Again, probing history, the path fate chose for so many of these unfortunate individuals appeared exempt of any clemency whatsoever. Women, guilty/victims? in many cases the latter, for they also underwent brutality and vengeance.The slightest breach called for direful repercussions, and where they risked the death penalty constantly. Their search for preserving unity went so far as to self-sacrifice through designed marriages. It was not uncommon in those times to have ten children, or giving birth in their own rooms and sometimes on a chair – with very often only two destined to remain alive. Rebellious women faced death, if they became engaged or married out of their social position.
Working for the family just as strenuously as their respective partners, they were regulators too, often requiring interpreters, as they did not understand the French language, and when on trial, were refused any type of release which could signify being deprived of any religious ceremony afterwards, and this was an intimate tragedy, as well you can imagine.

Setting aside severe criminality, these women often behaved as such through love, bringing food to those hidden in the ‘maquis’ for example, and were more severely punished because it was thought that they should have been the lanterns of good example here. In each of Mari-Josée’s publications, this courage is forcibly demonstrated through the centuries. Their thirst for instruction lead them to learn how to read secretly, relying on travelling peddlers, and in Rome during the Renaissance, French, Italian and Corsican were used, which meant a new civilisation and thus, transmission.

But what types of criminality are involved here?

frequently: poisoning, pimping, murder and passionate crimes – let us take into account the fact that feminine banditry went up to 16% during periods of unsettlement/crisis. Minors until twenty-five years of age, the pressure of tradition incited couples to elope to the ‘maquis’. Minor prostitution led to banishment or even prison. Pimping summoned being publicly whipped, thrashed and banished, and may we note here that this infliction was never adopted to men.

When Pascal Paoli and France arrived, a definite structural and cultural shock took place, resulting in hoards of bandits and where many women acted as accomplices, for patriotism was extremely strong, and at this stage women were hanged equally too.

Categorically, there were 2000 cases of criminality over the 18th century.

One of Marie-Josée’s books concerns a brilliant Corsican woman, Brigida, who left her home town (Saint Florent) to study medicine in Italy (1595), to later return to Corsica,  becoming the first Corsican woman with a degree in medicine but also the first Corsican doctor/surgeon and thereupon instate a quality of hygiene, practising in a hospital in Bastia (north of the island). Brigida’s story is that of tremendous courage, strength, and character within these times.
Another example is that of the widow of Zilia, (north of the island), and a deeply moving tragedy:
a widow, suffering from solitude, accepts the advances of a shepherd who visits her and falls in love. She becomes pregnant and is trialed by a civil tribunal – sentenced and condemned to drink poison, as she cannot without dishonouring herself, marry the shepherd. She spends three days with her family (mother + brothers) beforehand, and on the third day, drinks the poison (prepared by her mother), and dies…
she had three choices here: her own death, that of her future new born, or the death of her lover.

‘Men come from the soil, and the women from the heavens‘, says Marie-Josée, and she finds the Mediterranean women dynamic with a capacity of facing problems, hot-blooded, passionate and deep-rooted – with Corsican women as figures of feminine strength, within which they have maintained and preserved their ‘identity’, whilst assimilating the diversity of favourable elements necessary for their constant evolution. She maintains ‘we are all the fusion of the island’s communities, and this has forged women’s characters’.

Although there is still much injustice where women are concerned in certain regions of the world, there has been a positive progress from past times, a substantial sentiment of liberation whilst retaining strong family bonds through a certain equality.

She remembers, whilst she was reading all of these past accounts, it seemed as though the phantoms of the past were beside her, dressed in black, reclaiming justice for all who had suffered – if only for those of present times who continue to suffer daily, as the result of universal laws that have not yet seen the necessary evolution ‘it is worthless in holding back or denying what is wrong with today’s society, but, rather to work towards solutions and remedies’.
A firm believer of the complimentary between men and women, she realises that there still remains a misunderstanding between them, this being referred to through her works at times.

Collaborating with teachers, friends, prison guardians, doctors, etc., Marie-Josée works to understand in order to better anticipate, and chooses words from Paul Valéry: “History, I’m afraid, hardly allows us to predict but associated with independence of mind, it can help us see better”.

She is capable of writing at any time of the day, and claims ‘music and writing are telephones from the good Lord’. Her books relate to various subjects; magic and witchcraft seduction, relationships between men and women, shamanism, tragedies and courage, and her upcoming release will be reviewing navigation and navigators within a triangular situation including Corsica, Malta and Ireland, pirates and commerce, rebellion and the masonic period – may I add here, Marie-Josée has Irish ancestors too, which I was thrilled to hear!

Her books can be found online (presently only in French): L’univers criminel féminin, Les séductions magiques, La messagère de l’intemporel, Brigida médecin au  XVIIe siècle, Le feu des alchimistes, la Bandite, Les Sexygénaires, Un Avocat des lumières, L’Effeuilleuse.


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