The Subjection of Women

Author: John Stuart Mill was an Englishman, living from 1806 to 1873. He worked as a philosopher, political economist, civil servant, and member of Parliament. Taught by his father, he experienced a rigorous, home-schooled education. His close relationship with his wife influenced his writings on women’s rights. Mill was an atheist.

Context: 1869. Britain was prosperous and was continuing to experience effects of industrial revolution. During period of British imperialism.

Language: Mill writes in a tone that is intelligent, thought-provoking, and subjective. He includes many hypothetical questions in this work in an attempt to make his readers understand his point of view. Furthermore, he admits in many instances throughout his paper that many people may disagree with him.

Audience: Mill writes for a well-educated audience, and having been well-educated himself, he incorporates some challenging concepts and vocabulary. He appeals mainly to men, for they are the only ones with enough power capable of changing the situation at hand.

Intent: The purpose of The Subjection of Women is to make society aware of the unjust inequalities between the sexes, and also the wide range of capabilities that women possess.

Message: Women are born into subordination, and this subordination extends into marriage, where they have no property rights or control over their children. Mill makes the argument that equality in the institution of marriage would be beneficial to the happiness of both men and women, and would further society’s progress. He mentions that religion imposes obedience on women. Circumstances and education are the factors that explain the psychological differences between men and women. Mill recognizes that women, given that they have adequate education, possess capabilities that would allow them to hold positions of responsibility in society.

One thought on “The Subjection of Women

  1. Mill focuses his writing on other men because he wants to make them more aware of the inequality between sexes and that a change is necessary. There would be so much potential for great things to be done by women he argues, as they are just as intelligent and if given the same opportunities as men, could accomplish a lot.

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