Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

April Books 16) On The Subjection of Women, by John Stuart Mill

It's a slight cheat to blog this separately from Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women, because they are bound between the same covers of my Everyman edition. But they are definitely different books, written decades apart, so there you go.

Mill's argument here is in favour of political equality between the sexes, in particular that woman should be allowed to vote, a proposition to which he gently demolishes all the opposing arguments. He is less passionate than Wollstonecraft but has better one-liners:
Women who read, much more women who write, are, in the existing constitution of things, a contradiction and a disturbing element...
...laws and institutions require to be adapted, not to good men, but to bad.
If no one could vote for a Member of Parliament who was not [themselves] a fit candidate, the government would be a narrow oligarchy indeed.
I was also struck by his invocation of women rulers throughout history, in particular:
The Emperor Charles the Fifth, the most politic prince of his time, who had as great a number of able men in his service as a ruler ever had, and was one of the least likely of all sovereigns to sacrifice his interest to personal feelings, made two princesses of his family successively Governors of the Netherlands, and kept one or other of them in that post during his whole life (they were afterwards succeeded by a third). Both ruled very successfully, and one of them, Margaret of Austria, as one of the ablest politicians of the age.
To divert onto another topic entirely, this made me realise how little I still know about Belgian/Dutch history. The princesses in question are Charles V's aunt Margaret of Austria, his sister Mary of Austria, and his daughter Margaret of Parma. Must read up that period some time.
Tags: bookblog 2011

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