Mary Wollstonecraft vs. Jean Jaques Rousseau

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Allison Link
Global History 2 Honors – McIvor
Enlightenment Essay
10/1/12

The late 18th century can be known as the historical period of the Enlightenment. During this time, society was undergoing drastic changes that would impact people even today. These changes were known as “reforms,” and played a big role in politics and ruling during this time period. One of the bigger reforms of this time was that which would grant women a higher education and place them in a position closer to their male counterparts. The enlightenment authors, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Mary Wollstonecraft, took part in a debate in which they argued about the purpose and education of women. In an article recently written in The New York Times by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the impact of the Enlightenment authors’ work on the 21st century is described. Though both of the authors expressed their arguments well, Mary Wollstonecraft’s debate was overall more persuasive and convincing than that of Jean Jacques Rousseau’s, and her argument has had a bigger impact on the modern world.

In an excerpt from Jean Jacques Rousseau’s writing, Emile, he went into detail about his philosophy on how women should be seen and how they should be educated. He stated that women are made solely for the purpose of pleasing men and that their education should follow such purposes. He said that, “The man should be strong and active; the woman should be weak and passive,” and when the woman tries to become equal to man, in only results in turmoil among society and family. He wrote about how men can do with out women, but women rely completely on men, and most of his reasoning behind these statements was that the purpose of women has been decreed by nature. In terms of education, he believed that the instruction of a woman “must be planned in relation to man.” Rousseau stated that rather than an academic education, women should partake in an education that would help to train a man in childhood, and...
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