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The problem of our age is womanhood … it will take the next century to work it out as in its inner meaning, and in references to the eternal principles which alone will lead us to its final and triumphant solution.
Catharine Beecher held that women possessed a moral power that could allow them to play a vital role in the moral and social progress of nineteenth century America. Problematically, this power could only be obtained through their subordination to the greatest social happiness. I wish to argue that this notion of subordination, properly framed within her ethico-religious system, can in fact lead to economic independence for women and a surprisingly robust conception of moral power.
Julia Ward (1819–1910) and Ednah Dow littlehale (1824–1904), lifelong friends, wrote and lectured on many of the same issues, traveled across the country to lend support to causes, and taught together at the Concord School of Philosophy. Despite their close association and mutual efforts on similar issues, I argue that their philosophical principles were essentially different, in particular their approaches to an understanding of God, society, the sexes, art, and science.
This paper addresses the appropriation of theories of evolution by nineteenth-century feminists, focusing on the critical response to Darwin's The Descent of Man by Eliza Burt Gamble (The Evolution of Woman, 1893) and Antoinette Brown Blackwell (The Sexes Throughout Nature, 1875) and Charlotte Perkins Oilman's social evolutionism. For Gilman, evolutionism was a revolutionary resource for feminism, one of its greatest hopes. Gamble and Blackwell revisit Darwin's data with the aim of locating, amidst his ostensive conclusions to the contrary, his implicit “defense” of either the equality (Blackwell) or the superiority (Gamble) of women. This article identifies the reasons for, and limitations of, this enthusiasm. To some extent, the basis of this feminism is provided by its keen perception of disparities between what a text does, and what it says it is doing. But these feminists did not think through the implications for their own rhetoric about race hierarchy. Darwin's trope of the “savage” would return in the work of some of these feminists, occasionally displaced or rejected, but usually reiterated, and sometimes integral to the feminism in question.
The achievements of Anna Julia Cooper are extraordinary given her life circumstances. Driven by a desire Cooper called “a thumping within,” she became a prominent educator, earned her Ph.D., and influenced the thought of W.E.B. DuBois and others. Cooper fought for her educational philosophy, but despite her contributions, her apparent elitism has shaped contemporary assessments of her work. I argue that her views must be considered in social and historical context.
Anna Julia Cooper's 1892 A Voice from the South is a hybrid text that speaks provocatively to contemporary feminist philosophy. Negotiating exclusionary categories of being and knowing and writing herself into intellectual traditions meant to exclude her, Cooper's narrative methods are politically tactical and epistemologi-cally significant. Cooper inserts subjectivity into objective analysis and underscores knowledge as located and embodied. By speaking from spaces of exclusion, Cooper fully articulates the promise of intersectional approaches to liberation.
One of the most influential branches of nineteenth-century American feminism was a resistance movement committed to the idea that the key to social reform was the recognition and maintenance of human differences. This approach, which became central to American pragmatism, had its roots in a tradition of American women writers including Lydia Maria Child. This paper examines Child's work and focuses on her conception of pluralism and its role in sustaining diverse communities.
Marietta Kies and Lucia Ames Mead were two late nineteenth-century thinkers who anticipated the late twentieth-century feminist “ethic of care.” Kies drew on Hegel's philosophy to develop a political theory of altruism. Ames Mead adopted Kant's theory of peace and established a pacifist theory based on international cooperation. Both Kies and Mead insisted that the prototypically “feminine” ideals they espoused are rational, not emotional, responses to modern political life, and are essential to good political practice. Kies was a member of the early Hegelian movement and Christian Socialist movement. Ames Mead was a member of the Woman's Peace Party and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and an early proponent of the League of Nations.
This paper argues that communitarian philosophy can be an important philosophic resource for feminist thinkers, particularly when considered in the light of Jane Addams's (1860–1955) feminist-pragmatism. Addams's communitarianism requires progressive change as well as a moral duty to seek out diverse voices. Contrary to some contemporary communitarians, Addams extends her concept of community to include interdependent global communities, such as the global community of women peace workers.