Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities
Throughout history, women have been suppressed and rendered unequal and weaker than men. With this occurrence, many women have spoken out about why this is wrong and have fought for their rights in many ways. Judith Sargent Murray was one of these women, and as an advocate for women’s rights and an adamant, professional essayist, her work of On the Equality of the Sexes shows us what she thought on the situation and how strongly she felt about it. The interpretation received from this essay clearly grasps what the supposed differences between men and women are.
Starting out, Murray states, “May not the intellectual powers be ranged under these four heads – imagination, reason, memory and judgment. The province of imagination hath long since been surrendered to us, and we have been crowned and undoubted sovereigns of the regions of fancy.(Murray, Judith)” Murray says that the head of imagination, one of the intellectual powers, was assigned to women, making them out to be seen as dreamy, elegant and incapable of physical and mental strength. This is because the other powers listed, reason, memory, and judgment are socially seen as more powerful than imagination, therefore stating the place women were socially put in. This statement makes sense because it gives a reason as to why women were thought to not be allowed to be a part of advancing society industrially and could not work or be educated.
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Although Murray’s ideas were appealing, according to Marcia Schmidt, Sheila Skemps biography, First Lady of Letters: Judith Sargent Murray and the Struggle for Female Independence, “rescued Murray’s life form obscurity and provides readers with a portrait of a woman limited and frustrated by the increasing conservatism of the individualistic and materialistic early Republic.(Schmidt, Marcia)” Referring to the writings of Murray, Schmidt also states, “Nothing she published after 1798 had an impact.(Schmidt, Marcia)” Murray’s essay, On the Equality of the Sexes, being published in 1790, it can be inferred that the essay was recognized yet after that, her works didn’t have an impact and it was Skemp’s biography that gave her that recognition. This statement can be supported because Schmidt also describes the essay written by Murray in a way that it showed Schmidt agreed with the things said in it. “The independence Murray sought for women could not emerge from the military action of the American Revolution. For women, liberty emanated from intellectual pursuits. A secure nation relied on educated women; women would educate their children and thus protect the new nation. Elite and genteel women would instil the necessary virtues and standards in children to provide order and stability. Then a new social order based on merit based on merit could emerge and women of merit could take their place in it.(Schmidt, Marcia)”