ERIC Number: EJ1142999
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016
Women, Education and the Material Body Politic in Mary Wollstonecraft's "Vindications"
Forum on Public Policy Online, v2016 n1 2016
This paper discusses Mary Wollstonecraft's "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects" and "A Vindication of the Rights of Men" as books of philosophy about rational materialism. Based on an analysis of Lockean thought, as applied to the possibility of women's development of reason, Wollstonecraft suggests a new way to develop thought via materialism. She suggests that the mind is formed by experience and education, for women as well as for men. In the discourse of rights of the 1790s, discussions of knowledge were at the centre of debates about humanity. Wollstonecraft joined the arguments about expanding rights with a unique, feminist perspective. While the achievements of political representation remained a long way off, Wollstonecraft encouraged women's expanded role in the economy as productive workers in learned fields such as medicine, political philosophy, and scientific research. Wollstonecraft theorized that the education of women's rationalities and passions would develop the whole state body. She promoted a material "experimental science," as part of a process of improving the mind more generally. Practical, applied education would provide the model and means for a more productive state. "Reading, writing, arithmetic, natural history, and some simple experiments in natural philosophy," as well as "gymnastic plays in the open air" were the activities Wollstonecraft recommended. With such opportunity, women might work productively to contribute to their own wellbeing and to the prosperity of the nation. Merging rationality and economic productivity, Wollstonecraft envisioned a more economically powerful state where the workforce would be increased, almost by double, if women might become self-sufficient after education.
Descriptors: Authors, Females, Education, Feminism, Civil Rights, Philosophy, United States History, Womens Education, Well Being, Books
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