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A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman

1116 words - 5 pages

The eighteenth century brought about a great deal of change and a new-found interest in science and reason. Because of this, many great inventions, ideas and innovative theorists arose from this time period. Among them was a forward-thinking essayist by the name of Mary Wollstonecraft. In her book, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Wollstonecraft preaches her belief that the oppression of women is largely due to lack of female education. Although the term "feminism" wasn’t coined until decades later, Wollstonecraft paved the way for future women’s rights movements by advocating equality in education for women. She believed men and women should be equal in the very basic aspects of life, ...view middle of the document...

She goes as far to say "that all the writers who have written on the subject of female education and manners-have contributed to render women more artificial, weak characters, than they would otherwise have been; and, consequently, more useless members of society" (21). Although she appears to disagree strongly with Rousseau, I don’t believe that this is always the case. In her writing, Wollstonecraft is not necessarily breaking with Rousseau's central moral position; she is simply demanding that it be extended to women.
Perhaps the most important thing that Wollstonecraft believes should be extended to women is education. She deems the main hindrance on women in her day is their lack of education. She strongly thought that if women were to be educated, they would be liberated, and be able to generate the same thoughts and brilliant ideas as men. On the education of women, Wollstonecraft writes:
“I still insist, that not only the virtue, but the knowledge of the two sexes should be the same in nature…and that women, considered not only as moral, but rational creatures, ought to endeavor to acquire human virtues by the same means as men, instead of being educated like a fanciful kind of half being, one of Rousseau's wild chimeras” (38).
To Wollstonecraft, not educating females in the same manner as males is the greatest set back to women. Female education would help level the playing field between women and men so that perhaps, Wollstonecraft hoped, a wife would not just be seen as a servant to her husband, but as a viable companion and equal. She explains how this would be better not only for women, but for men as well. Educated wives, daughters, mothers, sisters and neighbors, Wollstonecraft argues, would improve the quality of society and would add to the great discoveries of the day. Another problem in the way society viewed women according to Wollstonecraft was that they did not take women seriously as adults. She professes that the men of her time “try to secure the good conduct of women by attempting to keep them always in a state of childhood” (19). Women are seen dependent on men in the same manner as a child is dependent on his mother. With this view, it is no wonder that females are not thought to be capable of generating worthwhile thoughts...

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