December 7, 2013
“If all men are born free, how is it that all women are born slaves?” This quote was from one of Mary Astell’s pieces of literature and it was a question she wanted all women to ask themselves. Mary Astell is known as “the first English feminist” and I chose her as my topic for this paper, because I believe in a lot of her beliefs about how women should be treated equally to men and be allowed to pursue whatever they wish- whether that be a career or a degree. I though she’d be an interesting topic and her views on feminism have made an impact on they way women think today, which means that I think she should be included in the canon of major English writers.
Mary Astell was born in 1666 to Mary Errington and Peter Astell at Newcastle on the Tyne River in England. Her mother was a merchant and taught Mary all the things a woman should know and how to act, but Mary wanted to learn more than her wifely duties, she wanted to expand her knowledge of the world and make a difference in the world. Her uncle, Ralph Astell, was a clergyman who noticed her thirst for knowledge and took her under his wing and began teaching her lessons in philosophy, mathematics, and logic. He started her education, but at the age of thirteen Mary’s uncle passed making her have to continue her learning on her own.
Her family life continued to go downhill because a year before Ralph Astell passed, her father, Peter, had taken the same fate. Mary’s mother was awarded a small pension to take care of expenses and their home, but most of the funds ended up being given to Mary’s brother so he could pursue his education, this leaves little for Mary and after her mother dies in 1864 she moves to London in the Chelsea District.
Mary was eighteen when she left Newcastle and upon arriving in London she made a friendship with Catherine Jones, whose husband was a spokesman for the High Church Party in England. Catherine ended up being a great help to Mary when she starts to publish her work and comes out with her Letters Concerning the Lover of God. Another person she befriended was William Sancroft, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who also assisted Mary in getting her poetry published.
Mary pursued her studies diligently, but it frustrated her that men seemed to act more entitled to certain prospects. For instance, education; Mary often wondered why more women didn’t choose to go to college or make a career for themselves. Was it because women believed they were of lower status than men? Why was every women taught the same brainwashed ideals? Mary chose to go against the norm and get women to realize that they were more than wives and mothers, that they can pursue a degree and be the boss at her job. She wished that more people of her own sex made the effort to make education a necessity rather than a luxury that was difficult to come by. With that thought in mind she wrote and published a text called, A Serious Proposal to the Ladies, for the...