Thoughts on the Education of Daughters: With Reflections on Female Conduct, in the More Important Duties of Life
Paving the way for modern feminist thinking, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97) dared to challenge traditional eighteenth-century attitudes towards women. First published in 1787, this book discusses how girls can best be educated to become valuable wives and mothers. It argues that women can offer the most effective contribution to society if they are brought up to display sound morals, character and intellect, rather than superficial social graces. Wollstonecraft later developed her ideas in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (also reissued in this series), in which she attacked the educational restrictions imposed upon women. Her writings formed a cornerstone of the battle for women's rights in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Prompting deeper reflection upon the role and status of women in modern society, the present work remains an instructive and provocative read for those seeking to learn about the roots of feminism in its social and historical context.
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Page 52 - I am sick of hearing of the sublimity of Milton, the elegance and harmony of Pope, and the original untaught genius of Shakspeare. — These cursory remarks are made by some who know nothing of nature, and could not enter into the spirit of those authors or understand them.
Page 99 - Women are said to be the weaker vessel, and many are the miseries which this weakness brings on them. Men have in some respects very much the advantage. If they have a tolerable understanding, it has a chance to be cultivated. They are forced to see human nature as it is, and are not left to dwell on the pictures of their own imaginations. Nothing, I am sure, calls forth the faculties so much as the being obliged to struggle with the world; and this is not a woman's province in a married state. Her...
Page 106 - Now no chaftening for the prefent feemeth to be joyous, but grievous : neverthelefs afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteoufnefs unto them which are exercifed thereby.
Page 136 - ... thou can'st not fall: Here reigns a deep tranquillity o'er all; No noise, no care, no vanity, no strife; Men, woods, and fields, all breathe untroubled life. Then keep each passion down, however dear; Trust me, the tender are the most severe. Guard, while 'tis thine, thy philosophic ease, And ask no joy but that of virtuous peace; That bids defiance to the storms of fate : High bliss is only for a higher state.
Page 94 - ... influence over the judgment to suffer it to direct her in this most important affair; and many women, I am persuaded, marry a man before they are twenty, whom they would have rejected some years after. Very frequently, when the education has been neglected, the mind improves itself, if it has leisure for reflection, and experience to reflect on; but how can this happen when they are forced to act before they have had time to think, or find that they are unhappily married?
Page 73 - In the mean time life glides away, and the spirits with it; "and when youth and genial years are flown," they have nothing to subsist on; or, perhaps, on some extraordinary occasion, some small allowance may be made for them, which is thought a great charity. The few trades which are left, are now gradually falling into the hands of the men, and certainly they are not very respectable.
Page 54 - The mind is not, cannot be created by the teacher, though it may be cultivated, and its real powers found out.
Page 96 - ... of education devolves on her, and in such a case it is not very practicable. Attention to the education of children must be irksome, when life appears to have so many charms, and its pleasures are not found fallacious. Many are but just returned from a boarding-school, when they are placed at the head of a family, and how fit they are to manage it, I leave the judicious to judge. Can they improve a child's understanding, when they are scarcely out of the state of childhood themselves?
Page 74 - A young mind looks round for love and friendship; but love and friendship fly from poverty: expect them not if you are poor! The mind must then sink into meanness, and accommodate itself to its new state, or dare to be unhappy. Yet I think no reflecting person would give up the experience and improvement they have gained, to have avoided the misfortunes; on the contrary, they are thankfully ranked amongst the choicest blessings of life, when we are not under their immediate pressure. How earnestly...
Page 70 - Few are the modes of earning a subsistence, and those very humiliating. Perhaps to be an humble companion to some rich old cousin, or what is still worse, to live with strangers, who are so intolerably tyrannical, that none of their own relations can bear to live with them, though they should even expect a fortune in reversion.