Women in Early Modern Period Essay
I’m working on a history writing question and need guidance to help me learn.
Women in Early Modern Europe
This assignment asks you to read three PRIMARY documents – written material from a historical period — that concern women in the Early Modern period. One is from the Reformation, one is from the Scientific Revolution, and the last is from the Enlightenment. Read them carefully and then write an essay that discusses HOW the historical period they wrote in influenced their views on women. Provide a brief statement on the basic ideas or beliefs of each of these periods and then analyze HOW the authors were influenced by these new ideas. Were these movements as liberating for women as they were for men? Do not just describe or summarize what they are saying. On what basis do they argue for or against a greater place for women in western society?
For example, the Protestant Reformation broke from the Roman Catholic Church which was a very male dominated institution. Once various sects broke away and established their own protestant religion, did they give women a religious role? Was it equal to men’s role? And, how did others react?
Please write in an essay format with an introduction that sets the historical context for this discussion and contains this statement. The body of the paper could be comprised of three paragraphs – one dealing with the Protestant Reformation, one on the Scientific Revolution, and one on the Enlightenment. Then, write a conclusion with your main points.
This assignment is due by midnight Sunday of Week 5. It is worth 35 points.
Reformation ** A Protestant Woman **
In the initial zeal of the Protestant Reformation, women were frequently allowed to play unusual roles. Catherine Zell of Germany (c. 1497-1562) first preached beside her husband in 1527.After the death of her two children, she devoted the rest of her life to helping her husband and their Anabaptist faith. This selection is taken from one of her letters to a young Lutheran minister who had criticized her activities.
Catherine Zell to Ludwig Rabus of Memmingen
I, Catherine Zell, wife of the late lamented Mathew Zell, who served in Scrasbourg, where I was born and reared and still live, wish you peace and enhancement in God’s grace.
From my earliest years I turned to the Lord, who taught and guided me, and I have at all times, in accordance with my understanding and His grace, embraced the interests of His church and earnestly sought Jesus.Even in youth this brought me the regard and affection of clergymen and others much concerned with the church which is why the pious Mathew Zell wanted me as a companion in marriage; and I, in turn, to serve the glory of Christ, gave devotion and help to my husband, both in his ministry and in keeping his house…Ever since I was ten years old I have been a student and a sort of church mother, much given to attending sermons.I have loved and frequented the company of learned men, and I conversed much with them, not about dancing, masquerades, and worldly pleasures but about the kingdom of God…
Consider the poor Anabaptists, who are so furiously and ferociously persecuted.Must the authorities everywhere be incited against them, as the hunter drives his dog against wild animals?Against those who acknowledge Christ the Lord in very much the same way we do and over which we broke with the papacy?Just because they cannot agree with us on lesser things, is this any reason to persecute and in them Christ, in whom they fervently believe and have often professed in misery, in prison, and under the torments of fire and water?
Governments may punish criminals, but they should not force and govern belief, which is a matter for the heart and conscience not for the temporal authorities…When the authorities pursue one, they soon bring forth tears, and towns and villages are emptied.
Scientific Revolution ** The “Natural” Inferiority of Women **
Despite the shattering of old views and the emergence of a new worldview in the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century, attitudes toward women remained tied to traditional perspectives. In this selection, the philosopher Benedict de Spinoza argues for the “natural” inferiority of women to men.
Benedict de Spinoza, A Political Treatise
But, perhaps, someone will ask, whether women are under men’s authority by nature or institution. For if it has been by mere institution, then we had no reason compelling us to exclude women from government. But are we consult experience itself; we shall find that the origin of it is in their weakness? For there has never been a case of men and women reigning together, but wherever on the earth men are found, there we see those men rule, and women are ruled, and that on this plan, both sexes live in harmony. But on the other hand, the Amazons, who are reported to have held rule of old, did not suffer men to stop in their country, but reared only the female children, killing the male to whom they gave birth. But if by nature women were equal to men, and were equally distinguished by force of character and ability, in which human power and therefore human right chiefly consist; surely among nations so many and different some would be found, where both sexes rule alike, and others, were men are ruled by women, and so bought up, that they can make less use of their abilities. And since this is nowhere the case, one may assert with perfect propriety, that women have not by nature equal right with men: but that they necessarily give way to men, and that thus it cannot happen, that both sexes should rule alike, much less that men should be ruled by women. Bu if we further reflect upon human passions, how men, in fact, generally love women merely from the passion of lust, and esteem their cleverness and wisdom in proportion to the excellence of their beauty, and also how very ill-disposed men are to suffer the women they love to show any sort of favor to others, and other facts of this kind, we shall easily see that men and women cannot rule alike without greater hurt to peace.
The Enlightenment ** The Rights of Women **
Mary Wollstonecraft responded to an unhappy childhood in a large family by seeking to lead an independent life. Few occupations were available for middle-class women in her day, but she survived by working as a teacher, chaperone, and governess to aristocratic children. All the while, she wrote and developed her ideas on the rights of women. This excerpt is taken from her Vindication of the Rights of Woman, written in 1792.This work led to her reputation as the foremost British feminist thinker of the eighteenth century.
Mary Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Woman
It is a melancholy truth—yet such is the blessed effect of civilization—the most respectable women are the most oppressed; and, unless they have understandings far superior to the common run of understandings, taking in both sexes, they must, from being treated like contemptible beings, become contemptible. How many women thus waste life away the prey of discontent, who might have practiced as physicians, regulated a farm, managed a shop, and stood erect, supported by their own industry, instead of hanging their heads surcharged with the dew of sensibility, that consumes the beauty to which it at first gave luster…
Proud of their weakness, however [women] must always be protected, guarded from care, and all the rough toils that dignify the mind. If this be the fiat of fare, if they will make themselves insignificant and contemptible, sweetly to waste ‘life away,’ let them not expect to be valued when their beauty fades, for it is the fate of the fairest flowers to be admired and pulled to pieces by the careless hand that plucks them. In how many ways do I wish, from the purest benevolence, to impress this truth that dear-bought experience has brought home to many an agitated bosom, nor willingly resign the privileges of rank and sex for the privileges of humanity, to which those have no claim who do not discharge its duties…
Would men but generously snap our chains, and be content with rational fellowship instead of slavish obedience, they would find us more observant daughters, more affectionate sisters, more faithful wives, and more reasonable mothers—in a word, better citizens. We should then love them with true affection, because we should learn to respect ourselves; and the peace of mind of a worthy man would not be interrupted by the idle vanity of his wife…