Bachelor of Arts
Women, Intellect, Feminist, American
This paper is a study of American women's intellectual history in the period 1770-1815. My aim is to develop a coherent conception of women's moral point of view as it is presented in prescriptive literature, political tracts, and women's own writing. Because of the nature of my goal, I will attempt to glean women's ideas out of the extant primary source material of this period. As the aim of this study implies the existence of a prescribed point of view which women were to share, I will use numerous examples from the genre of prescriptive literature.
Unlike our world of today in which men and women are generally considered more alike than different, men and women of the late eighteenth century were thought to be different and complementary. I will use arguments about women's and men's education and economic lives to demonstrate the existence of large discrepancies between their roles in the last half of the eighteenth century in addition to the large differences which the authors of prescriptive literature described.
My basic premise is that women's and men's intellectual and moral points of view were shaped by their daily lives and by society's expectations of them, and, therefore, by their own expectations of themselves. I do not claim to be able to address the question of a male point of view. It is a fact, especially in these years of revolution and change,that men's lives were much more varied than women's lives. Because the sphere of women's role was more narrowly defined, it is possible to discover within this sphere outlines of a prescribed and coherent woman moral point of view. Further, I will address the question of the division between what women were instructed to think and feel and what they actually felt and thought.
Fechner, Holly B., "American Women's Intellectual History in the Revolutionary and New Republican Era: Charting a Shift in Feminist Theory" (1985). Honors Papers. 620.