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Explain one example of how Wollstonecraft uses religion as part of her arguments in...

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jazz2424 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 10, 2013 at 12:25 AM via iOS

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Explain one example of how Wollstonecraft uses religion as part of her arguments in Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 10, 2013 at 1:33 AM (Answer #1)

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The core of Wollstonecraft's argument is secular in nature. Wollstonecraft is mainly concerned with demonstrating that many of the supposedly inferior traits that important eighteenth century thinkers ascribed to women were not innate, but rather a product of their environments and society's expectations. Yet Wollstonecraft also argues from natural rights, claiming that women, like mankind in general, were created by God with a mandate for improvement. In a passage aimed at Rousseau, she makes the point clear:

Why should he [God] lead us from love of ourselves to the sublime emotions which the discovery of his wisdom and goodness excites, if these feelings were not set in motion to improve our nature, of which they make a part, and render us capable of enjoying a more godlike portion of happiness? ...Rousseau exerts himself to prove that all was right originally...and I, that all will be right.

She uses this argument as a foundation for her larger point, that the "separate spheres" posited by Rousseau for men and women were confining. Women were capable of, and indeed had a divine mandate for, improvement and betterment through education. Men who argued for keeping women in a state of childlike submission were standing in the way of what Wollstonecraft perceives as the reason for man's creation.


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