Daniel Defoe: “The Education of Women”
At a moment’s glance, Daniel’s Defoe’s 1719 publication “The Education of Women” looks to be quite progressive for the time period in which it was written. He makes a claim of policy, stating that women should be educated in order to better serve men as companions. It is his justification for his claim that falls flat when viewed under a modern lens – he cares little for the individual benefits a woman may receive from an education, instead focusing on how education will further their ability to please men. That said, Defoe does state that although they should be educated to better serve men, he does not believe they should “Stewards, Cooks, and Slaves.” He believes that “The great distinguishing difference… between men and women, is in their education”, and that women’s souls are “capable of the same accomplishments with men”. The mix of traditional and progressive views present in his essay, as well as the reasoning for such views, make the piece an interesting look into the social views of the Age of Enlightenment.
The logical base for Defoe’s argument is a primarily traditional, Christian one. He first reasons that God created “nothing needless”, and as God created women with the ability to learn, women are meant to make use of that ability. To deny a women of education would be to deny God’s will, which would put such denier against God and Christianity as a whole. Defoe further claims that as Christianity is so tightly linked