Here’s a Valentine’s Day quotation for you, dear reader, from Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”:
Probably the prevailing opinion, that woman was created for man, may have taken its rise from Moses’s poetical story [Genesis 2:18-23]; yet as very few, it is presumed, who have bestowed any serious thought on the subject, ever supposed that Eve was, literally speaking, one of Adam’s ribs, the deduction must be allowed to fall to the ground; or, only be so far admitted as it proves that man, from the remotest antiquity, found it convenient to exert his strength to subjugate his companion, and his invention to shew that she ought to have her neck bent under the yoke, because the whole creation was only created for his convenience or pleasure.
Besides, the woman who strengthens her body and exercises her mind will, by managing her family and practising various virtues, become the friend, and not the humble dependent of her husband; and if she, by possessing such substantial qualities, merit his regard, she will not find it necessary to conceal her affection, nor to pretend to an unnatural coldness of constitution to excite her husband’s passions. In fact, if we revert to history, we shall find that the women who have distinguished themselves have neither been the most beautiful nor the most gentle of their sex.
And what a relief that is for this high achiever!
In related news, Wollstonecraft is slowly but surely convincing me that Milton’s repetition of the Biblical anti-Eve sentiment, which I have always thought of as very secondary to the plot of Paradise Lost, is actually fundamentally essential to understanding the text.