Early Modern Philosophy

Gender and Early Modern Women Philosophers

Did women object to this negative view of them in the seventeenth century?

It is difficult to see how they had much opportunity to object. Before and after Oliver Cromwell’s rise to power in England, pubic entertainment and behavior were often “bawdy.” By the time King William III ascended the throne in 1688, Puritanism dominated public morals, especially among the middle class. For some women, such as the successful playwright Alphra Behn, this was not good news. She wrote: “Though I the wondrous change deplore / That makes me useful and forlorn.”

But even during the “wild times” of the Tory Restoration, when sexuality was freely discussed and written about, and sexual relationships and desires were acknowledged as natural and tolerated in respectable society, Behn’s explicit poetry and plays had rarely gone beyond the conventional wisdom that women were the dangerous sex.


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