By Mary Wollstonecraft
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Additional resources for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
Or if we worship a God, is not that God a devil? Consequently, the most perfect education, in my opinion, is such an exercise of the understanding as is best calculated to strengthen the body and form the heart. Or, in other words, to enable the individual to attain such habits of virtue as will render it independent. In fact, it is a farce to call any being virtuous whose virtues do not result from the exercise of its own reason. This was Rousseau’s opinion respecting men: I extend it to women, and conﬁdently assert that they have been drawn out of their 48 A Vindication of the Rights of Woman sphere by false reﬁnement, and not by an endeavour to acquire masculine qualities.
My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of ﬂattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone. I earnestly wish to point out in what true dignity and human happiness consists—I wish to persuade women to endeavour to acquire strength, both of mind and body, and to convince them that the soft phrases, susceptibility of heart, delicacy of sentiment, and reﬁnement of taste, are almost synonymous with epithets of weakness, and that those beings who are only the objects of pity and that kind of love, which has been termed its sister, will soon become objects of contempt.
But, alas! husbands, as well as their helpmates, are often only overgrown children; nay, thanks to early debauchery, scarcely men in their outward form—and if the blind lead the blind, one need not come from heaven to tell us the consequence. Many are the causes that, in the present corrupt state of society, contribute to enslave women by cramping their understandings and sharpening their senses. One, perhaps, that silently does more mischief than all the rest, is their disregard of order. To do every thing in an orderly manner, is a most important precept, which women, who, generally speaking, receive only a disorderly kind of Chapter II 49 education, seldom attend to with that degree of exactness that men, who from their infancy are broken into method, observe.
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