how did the…?
How did the enlightment effect woman??
In what ways?
Women were prominent in the Enlightenment, especially in France where they were the hostesses of the salons. Wealth and aristocratic women helped out the philosophes in ways to avoid censorship. Even though women helped a lot in the Enlightenment, the philosophes barely mentioned the rights and abilities of women. Rousseau said that men and women were in separate spheres and that women should not be granted equal education to that of men. Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) wrote Vindication of the Rights of Women, and said that women should have the right to vote as well as to hold political office.
Historian Elizabeth Fox-Genovese in her essay “Women and the Enlightenment” traces the changes of these strongly held gender roles as they are affected by the idea of individualism. She sees the era’s willingness to engage in social critique and its belief in the concept of the supremacy of the individual human mind and its possible rationality as the stepping stone that led to challenging the accepted idea of the inferiority of women and notes that many of the era’s influential philosophers, like Rousseau, wrote on the topic. She shows, however, that the thinking on women generally still found them as “opposites” of men, and therefore reaffirmed their worth and their “equality” in terms of their uniquely feminine suitability for “higher” sphere of morality. Even Mary Wollstonecraft, she points out, argues for equal education for the sexes in part because of their special role as mothers (260). During this time, Fox-Genovese notes, women began hosting intellectual salons and writing their own stories from their own perspectives in the new literary form: the novel. She concludes her essay by saying that “both Wollstonecraft and [the Marquis de] Condorcet precociously perceived, the logic of the bourgeois doctrines of individualism and democracy implied equality between men and women. As increasing numbers of women came to understand those implications, they drew upon the legacy of the Enlightenment to claim the rights of the individual for all women” (272).