Nature of Proto-Feminism

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Proto Feminism is derived from the term Feminism, which refers to a philosophy or movement dealing with promoting the status of women by achieving political, civil, and/or economic rights equal to those offered to men. The word proto means "before." As a result, Proto Feminism refers to the method of setting the groundwork for feminism in society. As a result, Proto Feminism is a political tradition that challenges the unequal representation of women in society, even though there is also a growing consciousness in regards to their rights and values. Therefore, Proto Feminism required aspects of education and awareness among the women, outlining the actual societal demands and the perception of the community in relation to the women who are readers. The condition of women previously was underlined by increased dependency and confinement to a limited scope of roles in the society. Feminism proper became a thing in . During early modern period as it was underlined by activities of thethis time , scholars and activists with regards to awakening the women in the society to take up diverse roles as well as critiquing the misogynist assumptions$$. The activists and the scholars championed for the empowerment and awareness as far as their roles in the society were concerned. the activists viewed the women as rather inferior to their male counterparts due to the fact that majority of them depended on men to fend for them and their families. forwarded the idea that for women to add value to the society, they had to be given equal treatment and opportunities like men . They proposed that women were not intellectually inferior to men and that they deserved equal treatment in their work places and in schools when deciding which courses to take. TheScholars and activists y argued that the tradition of paying women lower wages than men even when they were doing the same type of jobs had no basis and it should be abolished. They also protested enrolling women in ‘lesser’ courses in schools while men got high concept education which in the end translated to them getting low paying jobs compared to high paying jobs reserved for men. Feminists, also challenged women to learn better paying crafts such as painting, teaching, weaving and many more as this was the only way they could improve their lives$$. In conclusion, early modern feminists challenged women; both common and influential, to be advocates of their fellow women through peaceful protests such as refusing to buy from organizations that treated fellow women unfairly and promoting those who did. These ideas led to the rise of a proto-feminisfeministt consciousness. Women began to have an insight on the matters championed for by the activists.appreciate certain core truths . Danny, what is this paragraph about? This is very confusing. Feminism or proto-feminism? And, if about the former, why? This essay is about proto-fem, which means your intro needs to be about that.

The sensitized First and foremost, women began to realize that they belonged to a subordinate group and that they had suffered numerous wrongs as group and not as individuals hence they started diverting their attention towards individualistic rather that relational proto feminism$$. Women also began to realize that the conditions of subordination that they were living under were rather imposed by the society since they relied on the men to provide for the families. Similarly, the women were previously accustomed to undertaking certain prescribed duties as outlined by the cultures a fact that did not auger well with the activists. not natural, but imposed on them by society . The activists thusy also rallied fellow women to join the other women in remedying these wrongs. Majority of the activists and the scholars comprised of the women with some men joining the movement as well. Women aThe activists lso began to formulate and provide alternative visions of societal organization that promoted autonomy and self-determination regardless of gender.

From the study sources such as Reflections on the Present Conditions of the Female Sex; with Suggestions for its improvement that we have been looking at throughout the semester, it is clear from the ideas proposed by the various authors that proto feminism existed during their time . Women authors, such as Priscilla Wakefield and Mary Wollstonecraft, were consciously aware of the backward state in which women were in. Wakefield, in her Reflections on the Present Conditions of the Female Sex; with Suggestions for its improvement, begins by discussing the assertion of Dr. Adam Smith, that every individual is a burden to the society they belong, whoever does not contribute their fair share of productive labor for the good of the whole society. Wakefield argues that in the assertion, contemporary customs of the period delayed women’s contributions to society. Based on their inability to contribute a fair share of labor to the overall good of the society, poverty-stricken women are targeted as burdens to society$$. Wakefield underlines that Dr. Adam Smith did not differentiate the positions of men and women, in terms of their intellectual capabilities, it could be assumed that men and women are equal, and that they both must fulfill these obligations to their society. This marks the beginning of proto feminism

The early modern authors, also recognize that the women were looked down upon as a group and not as individuals. In her article, Wakefield vehemently pushes for the rights of women in general and not individually. She argues the idea, that men are intellectually superior to women holds no truth. She says that the intellectual faculties of both sexes are wisely adapted to their purposes. Wakefield adds, if we lay aside the whole idea of superiority and inferiority, the perfection of the mind of a man and a woman is based on the power to maintain the distinguishing characteristics of excellence in each one of them. Wakefield also discusses women who are not very well educated, and are denied their inheritance from their fathers and husbands. She argues that there is nothing more helpless than this kind of women. For these women to improve their lives, she says they have to be trained in courses such as arts to enable them to earn a descent honest living. Mary Wollstonecraft, also speaks on the two kinds of women in her book, “Thoughts on the Education of Daughters: with Reflections on Female Conduct, in the more Important Duties of Life”, that the women who are provided for by their parents and the many that are well educated, but are left without a fortune$$. Those without a fortune are alive to much sarcasm. They are also shut out from confidence and equality. Catherine Graham, author of “Letters on Education”, also weighs in on the matter. She begins her writings, by stating that the moderns have followed in the ancient and prudish ways of separating girls from boys in the family when educating their children. Graham states that the general thought that the education of women should be the opposite of the education of men is not agreeable. She terms the notion absurd by all standards.

Although some of thel of these women authors recognize that the subordinate state that women were in was natural others believeinstead; it was imposed on them by the society such as denial and unconcern on the rights to adequate education accorded to them. For instance, Wakefield, Wollstonecraft and Graham blame poor education for the suffering that women went through at the time. In her discussion of Dr. Graham’s assertion, Wakefield argues that since Dr. Graham used the term ‘man’ to refer to both men and women, it therefore shows the notion that women were inferior to men was not true. Instead, the sorry state that women were in at the time could be blamed to the poor education that they received, and not because they were naturally and intellectually inferior. Wollstonecraft, also supports this argument in her writings. She states that parents exposed their girls to many dangers by genteelly educating them. Girls who were genteelly educated suffered the most when they were denied by their fathers’ and husbands’ provisions. Since the education they got did not enable them to earn a decent living, they fell prey to rich old men. This shows that the consequences these girls suffered were not naturally bestowed on them, but they were in fact consequences of the poor education their parents offered them.

Another indicator of the existence of a feminism is consciousness illustrated in the writings, by the authors calling for their fellow women to join in the fight for equality. Wakefield talks about men infiltrating careers that are best suited for women, dominating them and even getting paid better wages than women in the same industries. Wakefield states that fellow women should feel sympathy for their fellow sisters and that sympathy should direct them to hold out every incitement to the industry of their own sex. Wakefield proposes that women of rank and fortune should do their best to employ women only where it is applicable.

The activists who comprised of some men acknowledged the fact that the women ought to authors also recognize the fact that it is up to them that it is up to them to come up with ideas of how best to remedy the problem. Similarly, the society should be involved in ensuring the women’s rights are embraced. When concluding her discussions, Wakefield challenges her fellow women to come together and push for equality in the society. She states that the state of women at the time called for women of rank and fortune for redress. She then proposes the following actions for them; that they should employ women only wherever they can be employed, they should hire female instructors for the children, they should not frequent shops that are not served by women, they should not wear clothes are not made by women, and lastly they should reward women with better wages and permanent employment like they reward men who have supplanted women in these industries. In conclusion, she urges them to give women every advantage that they can offer to help improve their state. Wakefield also proposes that women should engage more in employments that require more intellectual applications than physical body strengths. For intellectually smart women, Wakefield suggests that they be taught literature, which would provide better wages for them. She further proposes that for women with great taste, they should engage in fine arts, which also pays good wages. With sufficient time and practice, she believes that women can also become good artists like men. For women who are less endowed with artistic talents, Wakefield proposes that they consider joining lower branches of arts such as design of landscapes and historical pieces. Women are urged further to consider coloring of prints, design of needle and ornament works. Miniature painting and painting with enamel is also deemed a suitable employment for women according to Wakefield. For women with no artistic gifts, Wakefield proposes that they consider agriculture. According to her, ornamental gardening and landscaping of parks and recreational grounds is also suitable employment for women. Daughter and wives of merchants are also encouraged to take interest in their husband’s or father’s trade. Hannah More, the author of “Strictures for on the Modern System of Female Education”, also challenges influential and wealthy women to wake up and help push for equality of their fellow women. Wakefield, in her writings, also recommends complete exclusion of men in teaching young girls and the job left to exclusively to women. This would help create more employment for the women.

In her writings, Wollstonecraft proposes that the only real solution to the poor state that women were in was better education. She explains that women who are poorly educated suffer the most when they are denied their fathers’ or husbands’ inheritance. Women were taught how to be classy, presentable and fashionable instead of being taught important courses that would enable them to fend for themselves. To those who have already fallen victim, Wollstonecraft urges them not to be content with their situation but instead learn to work hard and fend for themselves.

In conclusion, it is evident from these various women authors’ texts, that feminism consciousness was there during their time in the 17th and 18th centuries, eventhough feminism was in its initial stages. The texts harbor all the identification of the five core truths that constitute a feminist’s consciousness; that women belong to a subordinate group, they have suffered wrongs as a group, their condition of subordination is not natural but societally determined, privileged women must join their fellow women in the fight for equality and that women should provide an alternative vision for the society that promotes autonomy and self-determination regardless of sex/gender.


Macaulay, Catharine. Letters on Education: With Observations on Religious and Metaphysical Subjects. Cambridge Library Collection. Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

More, Hanah. Strictures for on the Modern System of Female Education: with a view of the principles and conduct prevalent among women of rank and fortune. London: T. Cadell Jun. and W. Davis, 1799.

Wakefield, Priscilla. Reflections on the Present Condition of the Female Sex; with Suggestions for its Improvement, 1798. (1798):121-131.

Wollstonecraft, Mary. “Thoughts on the Education of Daughters: with Reflections on Female conduct, in the more Important Duties of Life” 104-110.

November 23, 2022

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