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January 25 Notes

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 6 months ago

 The Beginning


•    1792—A Vindication of the Rights of Women

•    Mary Wollstonecraft

•    First major work of feminist theory in history

•    Followed her “Vindication of the Rights of Man: (1790)—written in defense of the French revolution




•    The Enlightenment/Age of Reason: http://www.whitworth.edu/Core/Classes/CO250/Intro/d_ageof.htm

•    Newtonian Universe—ruling principle

  • Physical world as well as moral political, and aesthetic ruled by rational laws known by human reason
  • Certain natural rights exist—because each individual had God-given faculty of rational thought/reason
  • Women to have the same natural rights as men


•    Some things didn’t fit into this framework: the realm of emotions and morals

•    Led to a division (in thought) into rational world (superior) and other (non-rational)


•    Rational (public sphere) and moral-non rational (private—women!) Women presupposed to be lacking in rationality.  The splitting of the world of work and the world of home


•    Issues of property—Locke—individuals who make social contracts are male heads of households.



Enlightenment Liberal Feminists:

1.    Faith in rationality

2.    Belief that women’s and men’s souls and rational faculties are the same

3.    Belief in education as the most effective means to effect social change

4.    View of the individual as an isolated being—who operates as a rational independent agent and whose dignity depends on such independence

5.    Demand settled on right to vote—move women into public sphere



Mary Wollstonecraft (married name: Godwin)

•    1759-1797 London

•    “Thoughts on the Education of Daughters” 1787 foreshadowed “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” 1792

•    Taught school, worked as a governess, worked for London publisher James Johnson (published several of her works)

•    1792 left England “to observe the French Revolution”

•    Lived with American Captain Gilbert Imlay

•    1794 gave birth to daughter

•    Attempted suicide in 1895—distraught over relationship with Imlay

•    Returned to London, worked with Johnson and others

•    A group that became an influential and radical—William Godwin, Thomas Paine, William Blake, William Wordsworth, and others

•    1796 began liaison with Godwin

•    She became pregnant and they married

•    Died 11 days after her second daughter was born—Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

•    Biographies written about her in the 19th century focus on her scandalous aspects—overweighing the intellectual pursuits

•    20th century paints a different picture


•    Women remain enslaved because of a corrupt process of socialization and financial dependence which stunts their intellect and teaches them that their sole purpose in life is to serve men

•    Marriage as a form of legalized prostitution.  Women should be recognized citizens with equality of access to both education and employment.

•    Women and men may be different—but reason is the same.  When they reason differently or incorrectly, it is due to a lack of training

•    Idea of moral growth is ability to make moral judgments

•    Woman as rational, responsible agent—one who is able, if given the chance, to take care of herself

•    Literature as a viable profession—educated women had a small measure of financial independence—a way of drawing attention to the difficulties faced by women




Journal: Think back to childhood and a female character you remember in a book.  What view of being female and/or being a woman was present?

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