What does Daniel Defoe mean by this sentence from his essay "The Education of Women"? "A woman of sense and breeding will scorn as much to encroach upon the right of man as a man of sense will...

What does Daniel Defoe mean by this sentence from his essay "The Education of Women"?

"A woman of sense and breeding will scorn as much to encroach upon the right of man as a man of sense will scorn to oppress the weakness of the woman."

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huntress | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Defoe argues in this essay that women are just as intelligent as men but without education, are not anywhere near the perfect companions they could be. As a matter of fact, he adds, there isn't a problem with women that education couldn't improve. The only reason he can imagine that men deny women education is that they are afraid that women will compete with them. He cannot conceive of a God who would create such wonderful, witty creatures as women to only be "Stewards of our Houses, Cooks, and Slaves."

Then he says:

Not that I am for exalting the female government in the least: but, in short, I would have men take women for companions, and educate them to be fit for it. A woman of sense and breeding will scorn as much to encroach upon the prerogative of man, as a man of sense will scorn to oppress the weakness of the woman. But if the women’s souls were refined and improved by teaching, that word would be lost. To say, the weakness of the sex, as to judgment, would be nonsense; for ignorance and folly would be no more to be found among women than men.

In other words, he isn't saying that women should be in charge, but if men want women to be fit companions, they should educate them for it. He then reassures men that any woman "of sense and breeding" wouldn't want to step on a man's toes/get in his way/do his work, so why would a man of sense and breeding want to oppress women? 

He has already argued that any woman would be better from education, so if that's so, there would be no reason to think of women as "weak"--i.e., creatures of "ignorance and folly." 

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