Mary Wollstonecraft And Prescriptions Of Women

1917 Words8 Pages
Perpetual Childhood: Mary Wollstonecraft and Prescriptions of Women in the Late 18th Century “Men, indeed, appear to me to act in a very unphilosophical manner when they try to secure the good conduct of women by attempting to keep them always in a state of childhood… for if men eat of the tree of knowledge, women will come in for a taste; but, from the imperfect cultivation which their understandings receive, they only attain a knowledge of evil” (Wollstonecraft 29). The prevailing belief in Europe concerning women, for many hundreds of years, had been one long inherited from Catholic traditions. Women were seen as an inferior creature, and had long been blamed by the Catholic church, for, well, pretty much every historical event which had ever been perceived as negative. At the point at which we find Mary Wollstonecraft expounding on the rights of woman, in 1792, the position of women in society had been made weaker still, by both the upholding of old prejudices, and the institution of a heap of new ones. The industrial revolution, particularly in England at this point (where the revolution first gained momentum), served to weaken the position of women in society in a number of ways, for even the women not immediately drafted for labor in the factories, would be inevitably repressed by the institutionalized and newly refined forms of degradation, that came along with the “rationalization” of society (the “civilization” of middle-class women, she argues, degrades them much more than laboring women). That the state of women in 1790 is the product of circumstance and imperfect education, rather than nature, is what Wollstonecraft attempts to prove (and successfully so). Wollstonecraft begins her argument with one simple, logical premise: That the intentional and artificial elevation of one man over others breeds malaise and corruption in such individuals, and
Open Document