The True Story Behind ‘The Law According to Lidia Poët’

Movies


The Big Picture

  • Lidia Poët, Italy’s first modern female lawyer, fought against a male-dominated system in the 19th century.
  • The Netflix series is a fictionalized depiction of Lidia Poët’s life, but it sheds light on the struggles she faced in her fight for justice.
  • Lidia Poët’s work contributed to the women’s movement in Italy and helped attract attention to gender discrimination in professions.


With Matilda De Angelis donning the robe of Italy’s first modern female lawyer, Netflix’s The Law According to Lidia Poët follows the footsteps of its titular protagonist as she works her way out in a male-dominated Turin in the year 1883. In a six-episode-long Sherlock Holmes-esque procedural, Lidia Poët tries her hand at solving different crimes while navigating her way against a system that bars women from practicing law. While the Netflix series makes for a gripping detective-style period drama, the true story that inspired The Law According to Lidia Poët is one for the ages.

Following Lidia Poët in her attempts at rescuing defendants often neglected by the justice system, The Law According to Lidia Poët also tries to shed light on the struggles faced by the Italian lawyer amidst a system that is yet to shed its 19th-century male chauvinism. During her endeavors of finding justice for her ill-fated clients, Poët discovered that it was more difficult for a woman to deliver justice than it was for a man. Matilda’s Lidia Poët is based on the real-life 19th-century Italian lawyer of the same name who fought a long battle against the system to win the right for women to practice law. Born in Italy in 1855, Poët graduated in law from the University of Turin, receiving her degree on June 17, 1881, and becoming the first modern female lawyer in Italy.’

The Law According to Lidia Poët

Forbidden from practicing law, a woman prepares an appeal to overturn the court’s decision in this true story of Lidia Poët, Italy’s first female lawyer.

Release Date
February 15, 2023

Creator
Guido Iuculano, Davide Orsini

Cast
Matilda De Angelis , Eduardo Scarpetta , Pier Luigi Pasino , Sara Lazzaro

Genres
Drama , Biography , Crime

Rating
TV-MA


Lidia Poët Was the First Modern Female Lawyer in Italy

For two years post-graduation, she practiced at the office of a lawyer to polish her skills before undergoing the theoretical and practical examinations of the Order of Advocates of Turin. Finally, on August 9, 1883, Poët was admitted to the Order of Lawyers and Prosecutors of Turin, with her name inscribed in the roll of lawyers. The Netflix series picks up from this year in Poët’s life as she finds out that being a female lawyer in 19th-century Italy will take more than just passing the bar examinations. For context, women were admitted to Italian universities only in 1876, seven years before the events depicted in The Law According to Lidia Poët took place. The following year, women in Italy became able to serve as witnesses to legal acts.

Poët’s battle against the system had only begun with her name being added to the roll of lawyers. As shown in The Law According to Lidia Poët, Poët was disbarred from practicing law within three months as the Office of the Attorney General filed a complaint with the Court of Appeal of Turin. The main argument against Poët’s participation in legal affairs was that women were not allowed by law and public policy to practice law. The inherent patriarchy, which prevailed in the system, was an evident contributor to the opposition faced by Poët. Much to Poët’s dismay, the Court of Appeal declared that the inscription of her name was an illegal act. She appealed to the Supreme Court of Cassation, but disappointment struck her again as the earlier verdict was upheld.

Lidia Poët Contributed Greatly to the Women’s Movement

While Poët found her much-deserved recognition only in 1920 (a year after Italy ruled that women were allowed to hold public offices), she continued to do justice to her profession as she worked in her brother’s office. As depicted in the Netflix series, Poët carried out all the duties of an advocate even though she could not leave her signature on letters or directly appear in court. But the real impact of Poët’s work was felt in the public sphere as she helped attract attention to the discrimination faced by women when they attempted to take up roles in male-dominated professions.

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Post Poët’s disbarment, a public debate propped up, and 25 Italian newspapers came up in support of women’s public roles as opposed to three newspapers that were against the notion. Along with her role as a lawyer, Poët played a prominent role in the international women’s movement. She joined the National Council of Italian Women in 1903 and advocated for suffrage for women – a dream that was only partially materialized in 1925 when women in Italy got the right to vote in local elections. It is safe to say that Poët remained a significant figure in Turin’s legal system until her name was added back to the roll of lawyers, 37 years later, in 1920.

The Netflix Series Fictionalizes Lidia Poët’s Life to a Great Extent

Despite the broader aspects of Lidia Poët’s life that have made it to the Netflix series, it is clear that a lot of The Law According to Lidia Poët has been fictionalized. Clara Bounous, the author of Lidia Poët: A Modern Woman, told Italy24 News that the series is not a biography of the Italian lawyer; rather, it helps only in popularizing the name of the feminist figure. One of the descendants of Poët, Marilena Jahier, told La Stampa, in an interview, that the Netflix series is “too fictionalized.” Jahier has also shed light on a few aspects portrayed in the Netflix series. She clarified that Poët, as depicted in the series, never lived in a villa in Turin, and her brother, Enrico (Pier Luigi Pasino), was never married, just like her sibling.

While the Netflix series also focuses on Poët’s romantic relationships, there is little evidence to shed clarity on this aspect of her life. It is only known that Poët never married and did not have any children up until her death at the age of 93 in 1949. It is possible that she may have had romantic partners otherwise, but the relationships portrayed in the Netflix series could most likely be fictitious only, including that with the journalist Jacopo Barberis (Eduardo Scarpetta), who helps Poët with her investigations throughout the episodes.

While the Netflix series seems to have taken ample creative liberty to churn out a thrilling procedural, it makes amends through its contribution to highlighting the truly adventurous nature of Lidia Poët’s life. If anything, The Law According to Lidia Poët on Netflix helps attract the fascination of many towards the life of a seminal figure who left an indelible mark on the women’s movement in Italy.

The Law According to Lidia Poët is currently available to stream on Netflix.

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