A Serious Proposal to the Ladies

Mary Astell: England’s First Feminist or Product of the Patriarchy? College

Mary Astell is often attributed as being England’s first feminist because of her writing which questioned gender politics of the late seventeenth century and early eighteenth century. For the time period, Astell’s writing was groundbreaking. She examined the nature of gender bias in a manner that overturned commonplace conceptions of gender and marriage and supported female autonomy and equal education opportunity. In A Serious Proposal to the Ladies, Astell explores the role of custom in the perpetuation of female subjugation, and she asserts that it would be most beneficial for women to ignore the custom of favoring the physical body over the mind in exchange for a focus on mental and spiritual development. Astell writes about the importance of female thought, and she strongly believes that women should focus on expanding their minds rather than obsessing over their bodies. In Some Reflections upon Marriage, Astell continues her early feminist examination of gender politics. Astell examines the marriage customs of the time period, and she subverts from the idea that a woman’s one true purpose is to marry and have children. The rigidly gender biased climate that Astell lived in made her writing seem radical at the time, but...

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