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TitleVisions of Women: Being a Fascinating Anthology with Analysis of Philosophers’ Views of Women from Ancient to Modern Times
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Visions of Women

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CONTEMPORARY ISSOES IN BIOMEDICINE, ETHICS, AND SOCIETY

Visions of Women, edited by Unda A. Bell. 1983
Ethics and Animals, edited by Harlan B. Miller and William H.

Williams. 1983
Profits and Professions, edited by Wade L. Robison. Michael S.

Pritchard. and Joseph Ellin. 1983
Medical Genetics Casebook, by Colleen Clements. 1982
Who Decides? edited by Nora K. Bell. 1982
The Custom-Made Child?~ edited by Helen B. Holmes. Betty B.

Hoskins. and Michael Gross. 1981
Birth Control and Controlling Birth, edited by Helen B. Holmes.

Betty B. Hoskins. and Michael Gross. 1980
Medical Responsibility, edited by Wade L. Robison and Michael

S. Pritchard. 1979
Contemporary Issues in Biomedical Ethics, edited by John W.

Davis. Barry Hoffmaster. and Sarah Shorten. 1979

Page 253

Mary Wollstonecraft 235

healing and be physicians as well as nurses. And midwifery, decency
seems to allot to them though I am afraid the word midwife, in our dic-
tionaries, will soon give place to accoucheur, * and one proof of the
former delicacy of the sex be effaced from the language.

They might also study politics, and settle their benevolence on the
broadest basis; for the reading of history will scarcely be more useful than
the perusal of romances, if read as mere biography; if the character of the
times, the political improvements, arts, etc., be not observed. In short, if
it be not considered as the history of man; and not of particular men, who
filled a niche in the temple of fame, and dropped into the black rolling
stream of time, that silently sweeps all before it into the shapeless void
called--eternity.-For shape, can it be called, 'that shape hath none'?t

Business of various kinds, they might likewise pursue, if they were ed-
ucated in a more orderly manner, which might save many from common
and legal prostitution. Women would not then marry for a support, as
men accept of places under Government, and neglect the implied duties;
nor would an attempt to earn their own subsistence, a most laudable one!
sink them almost to the level of those poor abandoned creatures who live
by prostitution. For are not milliners and mantua-makers:j: reckoned the
next class? The few employments open to women, so far from being lib-
eral, are menial; and when a superior education enables them to take
charge of the education of children as governesses, they are not treated
like the tutors of sons, though even clerical tutors are not always treated
in a manner calculated to render them respectable in the eyes of their
pupils, to say nothing of the private comfort of the individual. But as
women educated like gentlewomen are never designed for the humiliating
situation which necessity sometimes forces them to fill, these situations
are considered in the light of a degradation; and they know little of the
human heart, who need to be told, that nothing so painfully sharpens sen-
sibility as such a fall in life. ~

Some of these women might be restrained from marrying by a proper
spirit of delicacy, and others may not have had it in their power to escape
in this pitiful way from servitude; is not that Government then very defec-
tive, and very unmindful of the happiness of one-half of its members, that
does not provide for honest, independent women, by encouraging them to
fill respectable stations? But in order to render their private virtue a public
benefit, they must have a civil existence in the State, married or single;
else we shall continually see some worthy woman, whose sensibility has
been rendered painfully acute by undeserved contempt, droop like 'the
lily broken down by a plowshare.'

*A male physician who presides at childbirth.
tParadise Lost II. 666--667.
:!Dressmakers.
~Wollstonecraft had spent one year as governess to the older daughters of the Viscount

Kingsborough, County Cork, Ireland.

Page 254

236 Visions of Women

It is a melancholy truth; yet such is the blessed effect of civilization! the
most respectable women are the most oppressed; and, unless they have
understandings far superior to the common run of understandings, taking
in both sexes, they must, from being treated like contemptible beings,
become contemptible. How many women thus waste life away the prey of
discontent, who might have practiced as physicians, regulated a farm,
managed a shop, and stood erect, supported by their own industry, in-
stead of hanging their heads surcharged with the dew of sensibility, that
consumes the beauty to which it at first gave lustre; nay, I doubt whether
pity and love are so near akin as poets feign, for I have seldom seen much
compassion excited by the helplessness of females, unless they were fair;
then, perhaps, pity was the soft handmaid of love, or the harbinger of
lust. ...

On National Education

. Let men take their choice. Man and woman were made for each
other, though not to become one being; and if they will not improve
women, they will deprave them.

I speak of the improvement and emancipation of the whole sex, for I
know that the behavior of a few women, who, by accident, or following a
strong bent of nature, have acquired a portion of knowledge superior to
that of the rest of their sex, has often been overbearing; but there have
been instances of women who, attaining knowledge, have not discarded
modesty, nor have they always pedantically appeared to despise the igno-
rance which they labored to disperse in their own minds. The exclama-
tions then which any advice respecting female learning commonly pro-
duces, especially from pretty women, often arise from envy. When they
chance to see that even the luster of their eyes, and the flippant sportive-
ness of refined coquetry, will not always secure them attention during a
whole evening, should a woman of a more cultivated understanding en-
deavor to give a rational tum to the conversation, the common source of
consolation is that such women seldom get husbands. What arts have I
not seen silly women use to interrupt by jiirtation-a very significant
word to describe such a maneuver-a rational conversation, which made
the men forget that they were pretty women.

But, allowing what is very natural to man, that the possession of rare
abilities is really calculated to excite overweening pride, disgusting in
both men and women, in what a state of inferiority must the female facul-
ties have rusted when such a small portion of knowledge as those women
attained, who have sneeringly been termed learned women, could be
singular?-sufficiently so to puff up the possessor, and excite envy in her
contemporaries, and some of the other sex. Nay, has not a little rational-
ity exposed many women to the severest censure? I advert to well-known

Page 505

488

212, 219-220, 222-223,
240, 249-250, 254, 259,
276, 278, 286, 288-289,
296,298-301,304-305,
309, 331-334, 337, 342,
346, 348-349, 356-357,
360--361, 368, 377,
384-387, 389-390, 392,
395-399, 407-408, 410,
412,417,425,430,
439-442, 444-445,
447-448,451,461,464,
4~6, 472-478

to religious authority, see Religion:
submissiveness to religious
authority

Suffrage, see Rights: political and
legal; Women's Movement

Tertullian, Quintus Septimius
Florens, 24, 30, 78-81

Utilitarianism, 288-298

Virtue, 13, 29-35, 48-49, 58,
67-69, 71-73, 76, 91-93,
134-135, 156, 195, 197-198,
207,209,219-235,238,
241-247,251, 319, 325,
343-344,357,370--372, 390,
408, 415, 432, 446, 469

ambition, 17, 159,218,233,
260--261, 264, 426-427

arrogance, 70, 109-110, 121, 236,
243, 273, 395

beauty, 11,30,78-81,84-85,89,
100, 118, 120--121, 125-126,
133, 139, 149, 163, 183-185,
202,205,211,218-220,231,
241-247, 273-274, 304,
309-310,318, 325, 330, 358,
446, 453, 456, 461-462, 476

chastity/fidelity, 24, 31-33, 71,
74, 79, 84-85, 90, 118-119,
131-132, 135, 141-142, 149,
153-155, 161-163, 165, 167,
170, 187-190,200,207,219,
227-228, 230, 232, 234, 248,

INDEX

251, 272, 277-280, 284-285,
300--301,308, 311, 315,
339-340, 344, 388, 393,
417-421,437

competitiveness, 13, 35, 244,
249-250, 273, 277, 379, 393,
403,425

contentiousness, 127, 135, 248
continence/virginity, 14, 30,

31-33, 39-40, 60-61, 67,
70--71,73, 74, 82-86, 90,
92,99-101, 108, 133, 140,
142, 162, 174,205,251,
308, 315, 366, 370--371,
375-377, 379, 418-420,
422-423

courage, 30--37, 60, 66-68, 70,
72-73,92-93, 133, 155, 172,
184, 195,210,219,225,
245, 247, 249, 256, 289,
352, 380, 395, 407, 423, 442

double standard, 31-33, 74, 90,
140--144, 153-155, 170,
199-200,202,220--221,223,
227-228, 250--252, 269,
277-278, 376-377,418

fear of sex, 11, 423, 444
friendship, 33, 34-35, 48,

137-138, 139, 156, 180, 184,
192,231,238,244,273,
312-313, 334, 341, 361-362,
400,405-406,414,417,447,
456,469

greed,70
guilt resulting from original sin,

24, 30, 32, 40, 78-79,
83-86, 89, 92, 102, 109-114,
132,404

importance of reputation, 19, 30,
33, 135, 142, 153-154,
190--191,200,203,205,220,
224, 232, 251, 277-278, 296,
330, 360, 375, 379, 382-383

jealousy, 65, 134, 189, 222, 248,
251-252,417

justice, 24, 30, 36-37, 49, 67-68,
70--73,76, 179,211,
237-238, 271-272, 296, 324,

Page 506

INDEX

331, 335, 361, 395,405,
415, 438

modesty/shame, 65, 71, 73, 80,
114, 121, 123, 142, 153-155,
180, 198-199, 205, 219, 241,
244,261,310--311,339,359,
411, 420, 432, 445, 456, 462

patience, 30, 40, 251
rooted in feeling or principle, 30,

36,211,225,229,237-238,
241-247,271, 282, 284,429,
432

selfishness/selflessness, 30, 37, 41,
73,75-76, 179,226--227,
233,237,255-257,261,289,
296--297,314-315, 342,
360--362,367,383,389,408

truthfulness, 33-34, 65, 79-80,
99, 143, 159, 180, 183-184,
189, 206, 220, 229, 232,
272,279,310,314,331,
337,367,394,409--411,
413--414,419,456

vanity, 17,78-79, 133, 159, 164,
202, 222, 224, 227, 243-244,

246, 261, 264, 283, 307,
330, 334, 338, 442

vengeance, 184
Vives, Luis, 10, 14, 15, 24,

131-136

489

Voltaire, Fran<;ois Marie Arouet 16
36,38, 171-176, 195,216: 252

War, see Employment: in armies;
Culture: war-stories

Weininger, Otto, 10, 16, 25, 30, 33,
35,36,41--42,407--416

Wollstonecraft, Mary, 5, 8, 13, 16,
19-20, 29, 32-34, 37-38, 43,
218-238, 319

Women's Movement, 25, 41--44,
259-260, 262, 282, 303, 319,
330--333,335,343-346,347,
372-376, 390, 392-393,
399--400, 403, 407--408,
414--415,419--420,422,
425--436, 449, 451, 467

Work, see Employment

Xenophon, 16, 21-22, 25, 59-62,
136

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