The history of feminism is the chronological narrative of the movements and ideologies aimed at equal rights for women. Modern Western feminist history is split into three time periods, or “waves”, each with slightly different aims based on prior progress. Christine de Pizan presents her book to Queen Isabeau of Bavaria. People the mystique of enlightenment pdf activists who discuss or advance women’s equality prior to the existence of the feminist movement are sometimes labeled as protofeminist.
Around 24 centuries ago, Plato, according to Elaine Hoffman Baruch, ” for the total political and sexual equality of women, advocating that they be members of his highest class, those who rule and fight”. One of the most important 17th-century feminist writers in the English language was Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The Age of Enlightenment was characterized by secular intellectual reasoning and a flowering of philosophical writing. The English utilitarian and classical liberal philosopher Jeremy Bentham said that it was the placing of women in a legally inferior position that made him choose the career of a reformist at the age of eleven.
Bentham strongly condemned many countries’ common practice to deny women’s rights due to allegedly inferior minds. Bentham gave many examples of able female regents. Nicolas de Condorcet was a mathematician, classical liberal politician, leading French Revolutionary, republican, and Voltairean anti-clericalist. Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen in 1791.
This was another plea for the French Revolutionary government to recognize the natural and political rights of women. Perhaps the most cited feminist writer of the time was Mary Wollstonecraft, often characterized as the first feminist philosopher. Wollstonecraft believed that both genders contributed to inequality. She took women’s considerable power over men for granted, and determined that both would require education to ensure the necessary changes in social attitudes. Given her humble origins and scant education, her personal achievements speak to her own determination.
Author and scholar Helen Kendrick Johnson opposed women’s suffrage. 19th-century feminists reacted to cultural inequities including the pernicious, widespread acceptance of the Victorian image of women’s “proper” role and “sphere. The Victorian ideal created a dichotomy of “separate spheres” for men and women that was very clearly defined in theory, though not always in reality. Male authors also recognized injustices against women.
At the outset of the 19th century, the dissenting feminist voices had little to no social influence. There was little sign of change in the political or social order, nor any evidence of a recognizable women’s movement. In Scotland, Reid published her influential A Plea for Woman in 1843, which proposed a transatlantic Western agenda for women’s rights, including voting rights for women. Caroline Norton advocated for changes in British law. She discovered a lack of legal rights for women upon entering an abusive marriage. While many women including Norton were wary of organized movements, their actions and words often motivated and inspired such movements.
Due to varying ideologies, feminists were not always supportive of each other’s efforts. Anna Wheeler was influenced by Saint Simonian socialists while working in France. Feminists of previous centuries charged women’s exclusion from education as the central cause for their domestic relegation and denial of social advancement, and women’s 19th-century education was no better. Female journalists like Martineau and Cobbe in Britain, and Margaret Fuller in America, were achieving journalistic employment, which placed them in a position to influence other women. Cobbe would refer to “Woman’s Rights” not just in the abstract, but as an identifiable cause. Barbara Leigh Smith and her friends met regularly during the 1850s in London’s Langham Place to discuss the united women’s voice necessary for achieving reform.