In the feminist Pantheon John Stuart Mill and William Thompson have always featured high, somewhat screening the constellation of progressive literati, men of thought, letters and action who also vindicated and promoted women’s rights. It is the purpose of this book that these men’s voices can be heard. Male voices on women’s rights brings together a unique collection of original nineteenth-century texts, mixing seminal, little-known, or forgotten writings ranging from 1809 to 1913. It comes as a timely complement to the rare scholarly studies undertaken in recent years on men’s roles in the history of feminism, and will be welcomed by anyone interested in its intellectual sources. The documents, drawn from diaries, essays, parliamentary speeches, pamphlets, newspaper articles, or sermons, testify to the part played by the radical tradition, liberal political culture, religious dissent, and economic criticism in the development of women’s politics in nineteenth–century Britain. They also give some useful insight in the (often emotional) tensions, contradictions, or ambiguities of positions provoked by shifting patterns of masculinity and re-definitions of femininity, and will help revise common assumptions and misconceptions regarding male attitudes to sex equality. This text collection provides more than just source reading: Its substantial historical introduction adds value to the interpretative framework preceding all selected extracts, thus rendered immediately exploitable by students and teachers alike.
The introduction presents an overview of the architecture of the nineteenth-century women’s movement. It provides a discussion of the context of its emergence and development. It analyses the intellectual heritage at the basis of women’s claims, and the influence of radical religious and political milieus in the fertilization of the emancipation movement.
Chapter one presents a cross section of male activists who took up arms with women against their subjection. The chapter deals with the sexual double standard, women’s subordination in marriage and suffragism. It contains analyses of the social mechanisms that keep women in bondage, and pleas for sex equality and emancipation.
Chapter three looks at a range of exponents of women’s civil rights from liberal, socialist, eugenics, and unitarian quarters , as well as at the rationale behind their arguments. The texts promote mothers’, wives’, and women workers’ rights. They also defend women’s right to vote.
Chapter two charts educational reformers who prized the female intellect and supported its development. It delineates the social advantages to be derived from educating girls better and allowing them access to universities. It contains proposals for improving the public educational system and extending its curriculum.
Chapter four highlights a variety of advanced intellectuals whose challenge of gender roles paved the way to modern sexual culture. It deals with women’s rights to birth control, a healthy sexuality, divorce, and underlines the need for a new code of manners between the sexes. It also reveals the importance of women’s social roles for the Church, and presents new models of fatherhood.