Early Modern Philosophy

Gender and Early Modern Women Philosophers

What was An Essay in Defense of the Female Sex?

In An Essay in Defense of the Female Sex: The “Usurpation of Man; and the Tyranny of Custom (Here in England, Especially)” (1696) marriage was directly attacked. John Locke’s (1632–1704) empiricist epistemology was put to use in a search for social causes of the inequality between the sexes. The writer did not argue that women were as good as men, claiming that they were actually better on account of their intellectual superiority, which resulted from differences in nature. The female (or male?) author announced that men had conspired to keep women subordinate to them by denying them education and imprisoning them in domestic labors. However, she (or he?) concluded that what women did domestically was more important than anything and everything accomplished by men!


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