Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Pioneer in Women's Rights Who Was on the Wrong Side of History

George Mason University's History News Network has an article about Gloucester's Judith Sargent Murray by Sheila Skemp, author of a new biography of the early agitator for women's equality: First Lady of Letters: Judith Sargent Murray and the Struggle for Female Independence.

Skemp makes the case that Sargent Murray's class bias is a large part of why she remains less known than someone like Mary Wollstonecraft, whose essay "A Vindication of the Rights of Women" receives more credit as an early feminist text than Murray's own earlier essays in The Gleaner. From Skemp's article:
It is no wonder, then, that virtually every historian familiar with her work sees Murray as a modern woman whose failure to achieve the recognition she deserved can be explained by the “fact” that her view of women’s rights was so far ahead of its time. A careful analysis of Murray’s conception of gender and class, however, reveals that her attitudes rested on a distinctly old fashioned intellectual foundation, and were already becoming obsolete. In some ways, she was not a forward-looking character at all—she was someone whom history would soon pass by.
Related: Gloucester's Sargent House Museum

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