The words "feminist" and "feminism" did not appear in English until the nineteenth century. This means that, in reading earlier works as feminist, we will always be reading into them a concept their writers might not have recognized. It is quite clear, however, that certain works written before the nineteenth century share the preoccupations of at least first-wave or "equality" feminism: the education, enfranchisement, and above all, agency of women.
Aphra Behn is often viewed through a feminist lens, since she was one of the first women in England to earn her living by writing. Virginia Woolf said that she also earned women "the right to speak their minds." However, her plays are often rather similar to those of male Restoration dramatists. They feature strong, intelligent women, but the women have to work within a patriarchal framework and use their brains in a manipulative, clandestine manner.
The Rover is named after its male protagonist, Willmore, but he, despite his name, is the passive object of pursuit by Hellena, a young woman determined not to become a nun. Her sister, Florinda, shows a similar determination in arranging to marry Colonel Belvile. Although the sisters' object is marriage, it is difficult to see how they could have much more agency in a seventeenth-century play. Critics, including John Dryden, noted that Behn's drama focused more on the women than its source material, Thomaso, or The Wanderer by Thomas Killigrew. By the standards of its time, therefore, The Rover is remarkably consonant with feminist ideas and concerns.