How might a modern defender of womens rights respond to Defoe's "An Academy for Women?"
A modern defender of women's rights would be offended by this essay. Such a person would condemn it for having a condescending and sexist attitude towards women.
In modern times, most people (and certainly those who would be called "defenders of women's rights") believe that women have essentially the same sorts of mental abilities that men do. Defoe clearly does not believe this. Defoe's vision for women's education is one in which women are educated for the purpose of making them better companions and wives. In other words, he wants women to be better suited to please men. A modern view of women's education holds that the point of education is to allow women to pursue whatever sort of career they want. It is meant to enrich the lives of the women themselves, not to make them better wives.
For this reason, a modern defender of women's rights (at least in the Western world) would be appalled by Defoe's attitudes.