The Enlightenment and the Role of Women in Society
The Age of Enlightenment was a large cultural movement of educated individuals around the 17th and 18th centuries. The purpose of the Enlightenment was to challenges ideas that were rooted in faith and tradition, mold society using reason, and advance knowledge through a new scientific method. Different societies rose during this time period and discussed a wide range of topics. One widely discussed topic was the role of women in society. Societies mainly debated over the role of women in the public sphere. Two documents, specifically, had a great impact on the Enlightenment era. The first of the two, being Petition of Women of the Third Estate to the King, was written by a group of working women who addressed the King simply asking for a better education and to be enlightened in order to be better wives and mothers. The next document, from Condorcet, radically insisted that women should gain political rights like men. Although these two documents both had impact during the Enlightenment, they varied in principles and amount of effectiveness during the period of the French Revolution. The French Revolution culminated things such as the middle class and the grievances of women. On January 1, 1789, the King was shown the Petition of Women of the Third Estate to the King. These rights demanded by the women included the right to a decent education, and the right to earn a respectable living, avoiding the road to prostitution. These demands were far from radical and the petition made it specifically clear that they were not asking for equality with men. The women explained, “We ask to be enlightened, to have work, not in order to usurp men’s authority, but in order to be better esteemed by them.” The Petition of Women depicted a society that accepted social roles, understands the importance of education and had steadfast faith in their king. This group has accepted the French society’s pre-chosen position for...
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