Women's Education

Monday, October 17, 2005


In the 17th and early 18th centuries women were not encouraged to get an education. Some people believed that if women were well educated it would ruin their marriage prospects and be harmful to their mind. Protestants believed that women as well as men should be able to read the bible. Only the daughters of the wealthy or nobility could get an education. By the mid 17th century young women were allowed to go to school with their brothers. Sometimes if you were from money you would be placed within a household of a friend and within the household and you would be taught various things. Some of the things you would learn would be to read and write, run a household, and practice surgery.

Women's careers were very limited so people didn't think they needed the education in which men did. For example universities would not accept women at all. Common studies women learnt were French, needlework, geography, music and dancing. Studying anything else was thought to be unnecessary and hurtful to the mind of women. In the 17th and 18th centuries schooling was focused on how to govern a household and how to behave properly within the social class in which her marriage placed her. A lot of the focus was to teach women how to run a household.

Nuns were among the most educated women of the time. Women who wanted to be educated would join the convents to get a good education. In the convents women would have access to many books that most women did not have access to. Protestants actually became jealous of the education that these nuns received. They began to open private schools for young women whose families could afford to put them in the school.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Born in 1623 Margaret Cavendish was the youngest of eight children. All the children were taught to read and write. Margaret and her sisters were also taught needle-work, singing, dancing, and some other instruments. At a very young age Margaret wrote sixteen short stories which she called her baby books. In 1645 Margaret married William Cavendish who taught her science and philosophy. In November of 1651 Margaret wrote her first book entitled Poems and Fancies. Margaret was the first women in England who wrote solely for publication. Margaret published twenty-two works during her lifetime.

Here is a quote from Cavendish

"We are become like worms, that only live in the dull earth of ignorance winding our selves sometimes out by the help of some refreshingrain of good education, which seldom is given us, for we are kept likebirds in cages, to hop up and down in our houses, not suffered to flyabroad, to see the several changes of fortune, and the various humors,ordained and created by nature, and wanting the experience of nature,we must needs want the understanding and knowledge, and so consequently prudence, and invention of men."


Heres a picture of Mary Astell


Born on November 12, 1666 Mary Astell was a member of the merchant class. There is a popular belief that Mary was educated by her clergyman uncle. In 1684 Mary moved to a wealthy district of London where she lived with Lady Catherine Jones. Mary became involved with a group of women interested in changing the status of women. In 1694 Mary published her first book entitled A Serious Proposal To the Ladies For the Advancement of Their True and Greatest Interest. In 1697 Mary published part 2 of her first book A Serious Proposal…, which encouraged women to think logically. Mary believed tht women should be able to expand their education. Today Mary Astell is thought of as one of the first feminist philosophers.

Anniina Jokinen. Margaret Cavendish Quotes. August 2, 2001.Luminarium. September 10, 2005. http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/cavendish/quotes.htm

Ron Cooley. Margaret Cavendish, Duschess of Newcastle, June 8, 1998.University of Saskatchewan. September 10, 2005 http://www.usask.ca/english/phoenix/cavendishbio.htm

Contesting Cultural Norms: Education of Women. 2003-2005.The Norton Anthology of English Literature. September 4, 2005 http://www.wwnorton.com/nael/17century/topic_1/hutchins.htm

The Education of Girls. 1998-2003. University of Victoria,September 4, 2005 http://ise.uvic.ca/Library/SLT/ideas/girls.html

Mary Astell (1666-1731). 1995-2000. Oregon State University.September 10, 2005 .http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/philosophers/astell.html