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Women of the Enlightenment

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1 Women of the Enlightenment

2 Background From Renaissance to Enlightenment, women consistently considered inferior to men with domestic role in society Representation & attitude toward women gradually improved Particularly through literature New intellectual trends: novel & salon Gave new public voice Saw some first signs of feminism, although strict gender roles were promoted Foundations of equality found in 17th century thinkers Descartes – All women had ability to be educated Locke – Women equally independent in state of nature

3 Dual Effect on Women Some promotion of women’s rights
Liberty & equality should apply to women as well as men Laid foundations of modern feminism Individualism & rationality challenged women’s relegated role in society Persistence of ideas of inferiority & subjugation Women mostly excluded from discussions on liberty & equality Rise of ideology of domesticity Women’s role as mothers & wives Place in the home Writers separated women as opposites of men (Rousseau)

4 Philosophes on Women Positive views Negative views
Some blamed society for women’s inequality Believed in women’s intellectual potential Marquis de Condorcet –proclaimed women’s right to equal citizenship & education Negative views Promotion of old notions of inferiority & weakness Women continually linked with irrationality & emotion Excluded from philosophical discussions

5 Rousseau on Women Social contract included one between men and women
Men protect women Women serve men Emile: articulation of separate spheres Men = public Women = private Glorified domesticity

6 Women of the Enlightenment
Many women greatly affected by ideas of the Enlightenment Influenced Enlightenment as salonnieres & sponsors Began to demand greater role in intellectual life

7 Women of the Enlightenment
Mary Astell Challenged notion of separate spheres Criticized failure to extend notions of liberty to women Mary Wollstonecraft Wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Advocated equality of sexes Formulated main doctrines of modern women’s movement Education was key to equality & independence Oympe de Gouges Wrote Declaration of the Rights of Woman Asserted women’s ability to reason & make moral decisions Women not same as, but equal to men Had right to free speech

8 Conclusions Did not result in advances for most women
Education extended, but became gender-specific Women excluded from many fields Economic setbacks due to rise of capitalism Separation of public & private Ideology of domesticity restricted women Gave birth to new feminist consciousness & advocacy of rights & opportunities for women

9 Broad Summation Throughout the majority of Western history, women were relegated in European society to the confines of the domestic sphere. Women were prohibited from enjoying any legal, political, or economic rights, and were primarily regarded as instruments for men’s happiness. Women were traditionally depicted as fitting one of two primary stereotypes – the highly sexualized seductress or the chaste, virtuous mother, daughter, or wife From the Renaissance through the enlightenment, women did experience some improvement in their social position, particularly through literature; however, for the most part they continued to be denied access to the public sphere.

10 Class Activities Primary Source Reading:
Wollstonecraft VS Rousseau Discussion: the paradox of Enlightenment ideology & the treatment of women / non-Europeans

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