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Broad, Jacqueline, , Karen Green. A History of Women’s Political Thought in Europe, 1400–1700
2009, Cambridge University Press
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Karen Green

Publisher’s Note: This ground-breaking book surveys the history of women’s political thought in Europe from the late medieval period to the early modern era. The authors examine women’s ideas about topics such as the basis of political authority, the best form of political organisation, justifications of obedience and resistance, and concepts of liberty, toleration, sociability, equality, and self-preservation. Women’s ideas concerning relations between the sexes are discussed in tandem with their broader political outlooks; and the authors demonstrate that the development of a distinctively sexual politics is reflected in women’s critiques of marriage, the double standard, and women’s exclusion from government. Women writers are also shown to be indebted to the ancient idea of political virtue, and to be acutely aware of being part of a long tradition of female political commentary. This work will be of tremendous interest to political philosophers, historians of ideas, and feminist scholars alike.

Comment: Offers an overview of women’s works advocating for the spiritual and political equality of women and men from Christine de Pizan’s Book of the City of Ladies to Mary Astell’s Serious Proposal to the Ladies. Embeds these works within the wider traditions of political philosophy and in particular debates about virtue, liberty, religious toleration, equality, and good government.

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Callahan, Joan, , . Same-Sex Marriage: Why It Matters – At Least for Now
2009, Hypatia 21 (1): 70-80.
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Added by: Rochelle DuFord, Contributed by:

Abstract: This paper addresses the progressive, feminist critique of same-sex marriage as articulated by Claudia Card. Although agreeing with Card that the institution of marriageas we know it is profoundly morally flawed in its origins and effects, Callahan disagrees with Card’s suggestion that queer activists in the United States should not be working for the inclusion of same-sex couples in the institution.

Comment: This article is an excellent rejoinder to Card’s “Gay Divorce: Thoughts on the Legal Regulation of Marriage.” (She directly addresses the Card text, so it should not be read without first reading the Card.) It would be a good addition to a course that covers same-sex marriage, social justice, or contemporary ethical problems.

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Card, Claudia, , . Against Marriage and Motherhood
1996, Hypatia 11 (3):1 – 23.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Carla Rodriguez

Abstract: This essay argues that current advocacy of lesbian and gay rights to legal marriage and parenthood insufficiently criticizes both marriage and motherhood as they are currently practiced and structured by Northern legal institutions. Instead we would do better not to let the State define our intimate unions and parenting would be improved if the power presently concentrated in the hands of one or two guardians were diluted and distributed through an appropriately concerned community.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Card, Claudia, , . Gay Divorce: Thoughts on the Legal Regulation of Marriage
2007, Hypatia, 22 (1): 24-38.
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Added by: Rochelle DuFord, Contributed by:

Abstract: Although the exclusion of LGBTs from the rites and rights of marriage is arbitrary and unjust, the legal institution of marriage is itself so riddled with injustice that it would be better to create alternative forms of durable intimate partnership that do not invoke the power of the state. Card’s essay develops a case for this position, taking up an injustice sufficiently serious to constitute an evil: the sheltering of domestic violence.

Comment: This text is very accessible and poses a unique problem for the legal regulation of romantic relationships. This text would fit well in a class that discusses sexual relations, violence, marriage, love, or justice (as Card directly discusses Rawls’ Theory of Justice). Further, it would make a nice addition to a course that discusses justice for LGBT persons, as Card argues that there are more pressing legal and political issues that LGBT communities ought to agitate in favor of.

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Detlefsen, Karen, , . Custom Freedom and Equality: Mary Astell on marriage and women’s education
2016, In Penny Weiss & Alice Sowaal (eds.), Feminist Interpretations of Mary Astell. Pennsylvania State University Press, 74-92.
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Added by: Benjamin Goldberg, Contributed by:

Abstract: Whatever may be said about contemporary feminists’ evaluation of Descartes’ role in the history of feminism, Mary Astell herself believed that Descartes’ philosophy held tremendous promise for women. His urging all people to eschew the tyranny of custom and authority in order to uncover the knowledge that could be found in each one of our unsexed souls potentially offered women a great deal of intellectual and personal freedom and power. Certainly Astell often read Descartes in this way, and Astell herself has been interpreted as a feminist – indeed, as the first English feminist. But a close look at Astell’s and Descartes’ theories of reason, and the role of authority in knowledge formation as well as in their philosophies of education, show that there are subtle yet crucial divergences in their thought – divergences which force us to temper our evaluation of Astell as a feminist. My first task is to evaluate Astell’s views on custom and authority in knowledge formation and education by comparing her ideas with those of Descartes. While it is true that Astell seems to share Descartes’ wariness of custom and authority, a careful reading of her work shows that the wariness extends only as far as the tyranny of custom over individual intellectual development. It does not extend to a wariness about social and institutional customs and authority (including, perhaps most crucially, the institution of marriage as we see in her Reflection on Marriage). The reason for this is that Astell’s driving goal is to help women to come to know God’s plan for women – both in their roles as human and in their roles as women. According to Astell, while it is true that, as individuals, women must develop their rational capacities to the fullest in order to honor God and his plan for women as human, as members of social institutions, including the institution of marriage, women must subordinate themselves to men, including their husbands, in this case so as to honor God and his plan for women as women. Once we understand the theological underpinnings of her equivocal reaction to authority and custom, we can see that Astell may be considered a feminist in a very tempered way. My second task is to use these initial conclusions to re-read her proposal for single-sexed education that we find in A Serious Proposal to the Ladies. It is true that Astell encourages women to join single-sexed educational institutions for the unique and empowering friendships that women can develop in such institutions. Still, my argument continues, the development of such friendships is not entirely an end in itself. Rather, Astell encourages women to develop such friendships such that they can re-enter the broader world armed with the tools that will help them endure burdensome features of the lives that await them in the world, including their lives as subordinated wives – burdens that Astell does not, in principle, challenge.

Comment: This is a useful paper for understanding how an early modern woman (Astell) understood the implications of Descartes’ work for women, on the subject of marriage. It would be very useful in undergraduate courses that explore the social implications of early modern philosophy, as well as more advanced courses on early modern philosophy more generally.

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