Literature Study GuidesOn The Equality Of The Sexes

On the Equality of the Sexes | Study Guide

Judith Sargent Murray

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Judith Sargent Murray

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At a Glance

  • Although she did not use the word feminism, American author Judith Sargent Murray (1751–1820) challenged the widely accepted 18th-century notion that women are inherently inferior to men.
  • In "On the Equality of the Sexes," an essay published in a Massachusetts periodical in 1790, Murray adopts a tongue-in-cheek tone and sets out to prove women are just as capable as men. She uses several arguments to convince her readers that women are not mentally deficient by nature but that society's refusal to educate women has stunted their intellectual growth.
  • Murray tapped into the spirit of republicanism, the milieu of her time during and after the Revolutionary War (1775–83), to urge men to consider the benefits of empowering women to educate their children.
  • An important figure in the establishment of the Universalist Church, Murray fought for gender equality on the basis of her conviction that men and women alike possess immortal souls created by God.
  • Murray did not argue for suffrage, or women's right to vote, but her writings set the foundation for later feminists to pursue this fight.
  • Although she is less well known than her contemporary, British feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–97), who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), Murray's work is today considered foundational in the history of feminism.


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