Women In The Enlightenment Essay

1845 words - 7 pages

The Enlightenment is known as the revolution that brought to question the traditional political and social structures. This included the question of the woman’s traditional roles in society. As the public sphere relied more and more ?? and the advances in scientific and educated thinking, women sought to join in with the ranks of their male counterparts. Women held gatherings known as salons where they organized intellectual conversations with their distinguished male guests. Seeking to further their status, enlightened women published pamphlets and other works advocating for educational rights and political recognition. Even with this evolution of woman in society, many still clung to the belief that the role of the woman was solely domestic. The females that spoke up were usually deemed unnatural. However these women used the time period of reason and science that allowed them the opportunity to break away from their domestic roles and alter the view of women in society.
“Leslie Stephen described it (the eighteenth century) as ‘the century of cold common sense and growing toleration and of steady social and industrial improvement.’” Before the Enlightenment, the belief of the Divine Right of Kings was central to every nation. Kings were believed to be chosen by God and answerable to the divine alone, citizens could not question their King because in theory they would be questioning God. During the eighteenth century there was a shift in the public opinion of nobles and lords. Philosophes, or critics, began to openly object the way the government ran the people, even poking fun at the choices made. Kings were no longer feared. As people turned away from the restraints of government, a rise in individualism formed. God receded to the background and the belief in nationalism, secularism, and reason flourished as important bases of society. “Nevertheless, faith in knowledge and reason and in the progress they were held certain to achieve remained the dominant characteristic of the Enlightenment.” With the change in political climate, women began to grasp the idea of reason in the new society. There was a fight for education, professionalism, and citizenship. The change that the Enlightenment brought to the world, gave women the lifeline they needed to pull away from their domesticated roles as housekeepers, wives, and mothers.
“Above all, perhaps, the rationalists of the eighteenth century aroused the social conscience of mankind and stimulated the humanitarianism.” The Enlightenment allowed a period of educational growth to begin. A new love for knowledge and debate sprung up throughout the century. Women joined in with the intellectual banter by starting salons. “If Voltaire transformed the thoughts, and Rousseau the feelings, of the eighteenth century, it was the salons of Paris that the new conceptions of ‘reason’ and ‘nature,’ of ‘free thought’ and the importance of the individual, were sifted, codified, and...

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