Mary Astell 1666-1731 published the pamphlet A Serious Proposal to the Ladies for the Advancement of their True and Greatest Interest in 1694, a period at which there were only minimal opportunities for education for women in Britain, and few possible careers other than domestic service. The main role of women was to become wives and manage their husbands' households. The traditional other option for women's education and refuge for women of the upper classes who did not marry had traditionally been convents. However, with the Protestant Reformation and the Dissolution of the Monasteries between 1536 and 1541, there were no religious orders for women left in England.
What Astell was proposing, an idea not actually implemented until the nineteenth century, was creating a tradition of Protestant convents and schools that could serve as centers of education for women, both as preparation for religious vocations and as preparation for life outside religious orders. Women would gain from such institutions options for their future other than marriage and family, better understanding of Scripture, which would enhance their chances at salvation, ability to converse intelligently with men as equals, and the ability to rear their children better.