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Wollstonecraft And Blake On Women’s Rights

840 words - 3 pages

Mary Wollstonecraft’s 1792 work, A Vindication for the Rights of Women, is a declaration for the rights of women in both the political and social sphere. Living in a male dominated society, Wollstonecraft explores and makes strong arguments for women's education, a new definition of virtue, women's rights and the role of political/domestic life. A year later William Blake published the poem Visions of the Daughter’s of Albion, a commentary on the “tyranny of rape and sexual possession”, but also mistreatment of women in a patriarchal society. (Damrosch 163) Both of these writers were members of circles of intellectuals influenced by enlightened ideals, revolutions in France and America, and new ideas on human rights including slavery. Although Wollstonecraft and Blake both write in favor of rights for women, they each take a vastly different approach.
Wollstonecraft spends a lot of time speaking to the importance of education for women. She perceives education to be of monumental importance for a number of reasons. First, without an education for women equal to that available to men, women are useless members of society. Instead both men and women should be educated as moral beings and guided by reason. (Damrosch ) Second, she argued that the socialization of women and current state of education provided to women was a “false system of education,” which were really conduct manuals “written on this subject by men who, considering females rather as women than human creature, have been more anxious to make them alluring mistresses than affectionate wives and rational mothers; and the understanding of the sex has been so bubbled by this specious homage, that the civilized woman of the present century, with a few exceptions, are only anxious to inspire love, when they ought to cherish a nobler ambition, and by their abilities and virtues exact respect” (Damrousch ) The theme of virtue is reoccurring. Women are taught to mind their soft temperament, impeccable manners and child-like propriety and as a result they will marry a man who will protect them and lead them to virtue. Wollstonecraft finds greater value in reason than beauty and argues that a human’s ability to reason will lead them to virtue. Intellect and reason should drive human conduct not emotion and passion. She is not suggesting a life without love or passion, but rejects the idea that women should be groomed and educated only for love and so that they may be rendered pleasing. A woman should be educated so that she can rely on her own rational judgment. The revolutionary idea of “Liberty” was in the air. Men...

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