Women were not equals in the Age of Reason. Their education was deemed of little importance. They were to accept their role as “pleaser”. In marital roles they had limited property rights and physical abuse was not against the law. Women were considered intellectual and physical inferiors, who were in need of both direction and protection from their male counterparts. In paintings, females were often depicted as soft and helpless, as shown in Jacques-Louis Davids' painting “Oath of the Horatii.” In this particular painting the women are pictured sitting, wearing muted shades of pink, with heads facing the ground. The men stand strong, wearing bright shades of red, with their heads tilted upwards. This painting is in part a reflection on the view of women in this era.
Many philosophers in the Age of Reason believed in free and equal nature, yet women were not included in this idea. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a great philosopher but still overlooked females as equal, even though he wrote in depth about the rights of citizens in the ideal state. "The education of women should always be relative to that of men. To please, to be useful to us, to make us love and esteem them, to educate us when young, to take care of us when grown up, to advise, to console us, to render our lives easy and agreeable; these are the duties of women at all times, and what they should be taught in their infancy."- Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher and writer. He defined the Enlightenment as “the bringing of light into the dark corners of the mind.” In his book, Observations on the Feelings of the Beautiful and the Sublime, Kant argued women should not be educated because it “destroys the merits that are proper to her sex.” He did not view the difference in treatment to be anything other than what nature intended.
There were many females who made significant contributions during the Age of Reason. Of the arts were writer Mary Wollstonecraft...
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Wollstonecraft, Mary Edited by Todd, Janet. A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Toronto: Penguin, 1993.
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