Mary Astell: A Serious Proposal to the Ladies

(1214 words)
  • Jennie Batchelor (University of Kent at Canterbury)

Mary Astell's Serious Proposal to the Ladies, for the Advancement of their true and greatest Interest was published in 1694. Anticipating the conduct book's rhetoric of improvement and indebted to seventeenth-century philosophic debates on knowledge and learning, Astell's impassioned argument for women's education is one of the earliest feminist polemics. Her argument is brilliantly clear, rigorously reasoned and systematically exposes the prejudice, hypocrisy and injustice tainting the lives of women in late seventeenth-century society. Where earlier writers such as Bathsua Makin and Anna Maria van Schurman had sought to convince a male readership that women possessed reasoning faculties and therefore could benefit from a formal …

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Batchelor, Jennie. "A Serious Proposal to the Ladies". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 25 October 2002
[, accessed 28 September 2016.]