Mary Astell

(2078 words)
  • Jennie Batchelor (University of Kent at Canterbury)

Today Mary Astell is known as the first English feminist. In certain respects this title is something of a misnomer. The feminist concerns of Astell's work, including her passionate advocation of female education and vehement condemnation of the inequalities of marriage, had been addressed by earlier women writers such as Bathsua Makin and Anna Van Schurman. Equally, Astell's status as a feminist writer has troubled some critics who struggle to equate her assertion of the rights of women in marriage with her High Tory Anglican principles and her belief in the Divine Right of Kings. Unfortunately, little concrete biographical evidence exists to chronicle Astell's life. Unlike the better known feminist writer and novelist Mary …

Please log in to consult the article in its entirety. If you are a member (student of staff) of a subscribing institution (see List), you should be able to access the LE on campus directly (without the need to log in), and off-campus either via the institutional log in we offer, or via your institution's remote access facilities, or by creating a personal user account with your institutional email address. If you are not a member of a subscribing institution, you will need to purchase a personal subscription. For more information on how to subscribe as an individual user, please see under Individual Subcriptions.

Batchelor, Jennie. "Mary Astell". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 21 March 2002
[, accessed 26 November 2015.]

Articles on Astell's works

  1. A Serious Proposal to the Ladies
  2. Reflections on Marriage