Mary Astell

The philosopher Mary Astell (1666 - 1731) has been described as “the first English feminist”. Born in Newcastle in relatively poor circumstances in the aftermath of the upheaval of the English Civil War and the restoration of the monarchy, she moved to London as a young woman and became part of an extraordinary circle of intellectual and aristocratic women. In her pioneering publications, she argued that women’s education should be expanded, that men and women’s minds were the same and that no woman should be forced to marry against her will. Perhaps her most famous quotation is: “If all Men are born Free, why are all Women born Slaves?” Today, she is one of just a handful of female philosophers to be featured in the multi-volume Cambridge History of Political Thought.

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  • Hannah Dawson No other episodes
    Senior Lecturer in the History of Ideas at King's College London
  • Mark Goldie 2 episodes
    Professor Emeritus of Intellectual History at the University of Cambridge
  • Teresa Bejan No other episodes
    Associate Professor of Political Theory at Oriel College, University of Oxford

Reading list

  • Women, Feminism and Religion in Early Enlightenment England
    Sarah Apetrei (Cambridge University Press, 2010) Google Books →
  • Political Writings
    Mary Astell (Cambridge University Press, 1996) Google Books →
  • A Serious Proposal to the Ladies
    Mary Astell (Broadview Press, 1999) Google Books →
  • Reflections Upon Marriage: The third edition. To which is added a preface, in answer to some objections
    Mary Astell (Gale ECCO, 2010) Google Books →
  • Women Philosophers of the Seventeenth Century
    Jacqueline Broad (Cambridge University Press, 2003) Google Books →
  • A History of Women's Political Thought in Europe, 1400 to 1700
    Jacqueline Broad and Karen Green (Cambridge University Press, 2009) Google Books →
  • The Philosopher Queens: The Lives and Legacies of Philosophy's Unsung Women
    Rebecca Buxton and Lisa Whiting (Unbound, 2020) Google Books →
  • Mary Astell: Reason, Gender, Faith
    William Kolbrener and Michal Michelson (Routledge, 2007) Google Books →
  • The Celebrated Mary Astell: An Early English Feminist
    Ruth Perry (University of Chicago Press, 1986) Google Books →
  • Mary Astell: Theorist of Freedom from Domination
    Patricia Springborg (Cambridge University Press, 2005) Google Books →

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Auto-category: 305.42 (Women’s rights)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, Mary Astell, 1666 to 1731, has been described as the first English feminist.