[Fortuna enthroned, statue found in Pompeii, source: Wikimedia Commons]
The dedication of a girl’s childhood clothing to Fortuna Virginalis and her subsequent donning of the matron’s stola marked her passage through puberty into adulthood. The fact that this was assumed to be an abandonment of her virginity in respectable marriage* limited this to “respectable” women. After this they passed into the patronage of Fortuna Primigenia of Praneste, responsible for mothers, childbirth, and the good luck of the Roman people. The fortunes of the state was then held to rest on the morality of these women.
Other aspects, however, drew even stronger divisions between women. The Romans paired her cult with that of Mater Matuta, celebrating not only good motherhood, but also the care of an aunt for her siblings’ children. They limited the worship of these goddesses to respectable univirae, apparently excluding even respectable plebian women from some of their rites.** To bring the point home, every year on the festival of Matrialia they brought in a slave woman only to forcibly expel her from the temple.
On the other hand, respectable women were expected to avoid the cult of Fortuna Virilis, associated with the sexual fortunes of women. They honored her by crowding into men’s public baths on the day of her festival, April 1. Whether men were barred from said baths for the day is unknown. Respectable women, meanwhile, spent the day celebrating Venus Verticordia in honor of marital fidelity.
The restrictions on worship of the Goddess of Chance Events served to strongly associate good fortune for both the individual and the Roman state with good morals and respectability. Her rites were celebrations of bounty, certainly, but only through those deserving.
*As signified by the putting on of a matron’s garments. The status of matron assumed marriage or widowhood, though a woman did not necessarily need to be either to be a matron.
**According to Livy, Verginia, a patrician woman who had married a plebian, responded by setting up her own altar to Fortuna, dedicating it to plebian chastity.