The origins of feminism are most often traced to the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment.
During this time period, several male and female writers championed the rights of women including philosopher John Bentham and French Revolution supporter Marquis de Condorcet.
However, most historians and feminist scholars would say the most important writer during this period is Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote her famous treatise A Vindication on the Rights of Woman. Wollstonecraft argues in this text that women’s education and upbringing at the time contributed to their limited expectations for themselves. She proposed that both men and women participated in a sexist system that would need to be restructured in order for women to gain access to roles outside of the traditional spheres. Wollstonecraft is often referred to as the first feminist philosopher, and if I were to make an argument for who the “mother” of feminism is in Western thought, I would point to Wollstonecraft.