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Three Cartesian Feminist Treatises

Introductions and Annotations by Marcelle Maistre Welch
Translated by Vivien Bosley
One of the most radical feminist theorists in Europe before the nineteenth century, François Poullain de la Barre (1647-1723) was a man way ahead of his time. Applying Cartesian principles to "the Woman Question," Poullain demonstrated by rational deduction that the supposedly "self-evident" inequality of the sexes was nothing more than unfounded prejudice.

Poullain published three books (anonymously) on this topic in the 1670s, all of which are included in English translation in this volume. In On the Equality of the Two Sexes he argued that the supposedly "natural" inferiority of women was culturally produced. To help women recognize and combat this prejudice, Poullain advocated a modern, enlightened feminine education in On the Education of Ladies. Finally, since his contemporaries largely ignored Poullain’s writings, he offered a rebuttal to his own arguments in On the Excellence of Men—a rebuttal that he promptly countered, strengthening his original positions.

A truly modern feminist, Poullain laid the intellectual groundwork for the women’s liberation movement centuries before it happened.

366 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2002

The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe

Literature and Literary Criticism: Romance Languages

Philosophy: Philosophy of Religion

Women's Studies

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Series, by Margaret L. King and Albert Rabil Jr.
Introduction: Poullain de la Barre’s Cartesian Feminism
Note on the Texts
On the Equality of the Two Sexes
On the Equality of the Two Sexes
On the Education of Ladies
On the Education of Ladies
On the Excellence of Men: Preface and Remarks
Select Bibliography

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