Libertarian and Feminism, Session 2: Was Wollstonecraft an Individualist?

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November 10, 2015 by Racheltd

Wollstoncraft_Reason_LibertiaLibertarian and Feminism, Session 2: Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication on the Rights of Women, 1792, Chapter VI, The effect which an early association of ideas has upon the character

In our second session of the semester’s Students for Liberty Virtual Reading Group on Libertarianism and Feminism we read from one of the first modern texts from the feminist canon: Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication on the Rights of Women.

We began by reading and briefly discussing an excerpt from a poem that Wollstonecraft references.

Moral Essays, Epistle II, By Alexander Pope, TO A LADY: Of the Characters of Women (1735)

In men we various Ruling Passions find;
In women two almost divide the kind;
Those only fix’d, they first or last obey,
The love of Pleasure, and the love of Sway. 210
That Nature gives; and where the lesson taught
Is but to please, can Pleasure seem a fault?
Experience this: by man’s oppression curst,
They seek the second not to lose the first.
Men some to bus’ness, some to pleasure take; 215
But ev’ry woman is at heart a rake:
Men some to quiet, some to public strife;
But ev’ry lady would be queen for life.
Yet mark the fate of a whole sex of queens!
Power all their end, but Beauty all the means. 220
In youth they conquer with so wild a rage,
As leaves them scarce a subject in their age:
For foreign glory, foreign joy they roam;
No thought of peace or happiness at home.
But wisdom’s triumph is well-timed retreat, 225
As hard a science to the Fair as Great!
Beauties, like tyrants, old and friendless grown,
Yet hate repose, and dread to be alone;
Worn out in public, weary ev’ry eye,

We then went on to discuss a number of interesting questions on education of women, and the education of men, and ending with the question of whether Wollstonecraft would be considered an individualist. You can find our full session notes here.

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