Mill, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft

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Mothers need education like babies need milk

Men incorrectly view women as naturally weak and therefore only capable of serving the male citizens, “being the greatest charm of society”, and not needing any masculine qualities like education or physical strength (Rousseau, 262). Women are ill taught by men to believe these social stigmas assigned to them, which are obedience, chastity to the family, and subservience to men, their family, and society. This view of motherhood is thought to benefit the men, where as women will be their pleasing servants as wives, their children’s tutor after motherhood, and their chaste civil companion. But to this view, which Rousseau wrote a chauvinistic book about, Wollstonecraft wrote an objective book against. Wollstonecraft argues that women are not naturally weak nor are they confined to their natural role of being a mother, women are just as capable of being mothers as citizens, but they need an education. While Rousseau views the social function of motherhood to be the only duty women are capable of doing to contribute to society, a role which requires little education because he believes it to be inherent, Wollstonecraft endeavors to prove that women are equally competent citizens as men and mothers have the same natural rights to education and citizenship as men. This male dominated society restrains women from reaching her rational, intellectual, and human rights. By denying women the freedom to “exercise their bodies and minds”, men are not allowing women to “acquire that mental activity so necessary in the maternal character” (Wollstonecraft 221). Olympe de Gouges also wrote a book on men’s need for a social contract of fidelity between man and women. Men see women as able to corrupt society with illegitimate children but de Gouges stresses the importance of compassionate human rights and a mother’s natural rights to her child and his natural father regardless of the marriage contract between the man and the women. De Gouges says that if man and woman had equal experiences, in society, education, and rights, they would be united and therefore able to “make a good household” (de Gouges 5). Therefore, men are the reason for women’s current state of folly and ignorance because they deny women the opportunity to use their natural capacities, talents, and intellect; all characteristics mothers need to make rational decisions for herself and her child who will become a future citizen of society. But Rousseau’s folly is given solutions by de Gouges and Wollstonecraft. Since “men are unwilling to place women in situations proper to enable them to acquire sufficient understanding to know how even to nurse their babes” they should be warned that “the weakness of the mother will be visited on the children!” (Wollstonecraft 220). But “to guard against the errors of ignorance, [women] should be taught the elements of anatomy and medicine, not only to enable them to take proper care of their own health, but to make them rational nurses of their infants, parents, and husband. Likewise proper in a domestic view, to make women acquainted with the anatomy of the min, by allowing the sexes to associate together (Wollstonecraft, 221). For women, the family “might also be called a state” so if men are to be prepared for the civil state of society through education, women should too (Wollstonecraft 221). Wollstonecraft’s view on motherhood is to show that mothers are women who are best able to contribute positively to society when they have been prepared with knowledge for their role.

Rousseau believes that motherhood is a duty of nature; women owe chastity to her husband so he is secure in his belief that the child is his and women only need a bare minimum education to entertain the husband and guide the child till he is of age to attend school. He believes that women should be educated relative to men so that they can better “please them, be useful to them, make themselves loved and honored by...
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