Description - Female Education in the Age of Enlightenment by Janet Todd
The education and training of women for their presumed role in life were of continuing interest to the 18th century which produced a spate of advice book and manuals. Most commentators believed that women should be bound by a superior or stricter morality or some other version of the double standard but occasionally there were doubts raised and an acknowledgement that this distinction was strictly constructed rather than natural. The gendered psychology that men and women were distinct intellectual and emotional creatures was also generally agreed, although several spirited women kicked against this construction. Both men and women took part in the education debate that culminated in the 1790s with Wollstonecraft, More and Edgeworth, but positions and arguments were laid down long before by Fordyce, Gregory, Gisbourne, West, Macaulay and Chapone, as featured in this text. Between them these writers first raised the issues of a woman's political, domestic and financial status, and the image of feminity ascribed to her. Male critics tended to stress the contingency of women.
Fordyce, for example, described women as "manifestly intended" to be mothers and helpmates, "to be a kind of softer companion, who by nameless delightful sympathies and endearments, might improve our pleasures and soothe our pains". Gregory, too, urges women to maintain their softer image, encouraging them to hide the ways they thought might deviate from the passive ideals of femininity, through physical strength or affectation. Women writing on these topics were not unaware of the dangers concurrent with challenging the traditionally feminine roles, but at the same time recognized that their social and political advancement clearly depended on doing so.
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(234mm x 156mm x mm)
Pickering & Chatto (Publishers) Ltd
Publisher: Taylor & Francis Ltd
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