The Misogynistic Henry Higgins

1990 Words Jul 4th, 2011 8 Pages
The Misogynistic Henry Higgins

The key to understanding George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion lies in understanding the power struggle between the “haves” and “have-nots” – specifically the active and intentional disenfranchisement of women at the turn of the 20th century. At the core of Pygmalion there is a focus on the societal inequities of the day, with Shaw presenting society’s treatment of women as property without rights and with little understanding of their surroundings or place in society. Throughout the 19th century, and into the early 20th century, when Shaw penned Pygmalion, British laws and society actively restrained women, both politically and economically.
Unlike the United States, women in England were allowed to vote prior
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Much of English society and government mirrored Higgins beliefs. In 1888, an appeals court judge, Lord Esther, ruled that “neither by Common Law nor by the Constitution of this country from the beginning of the Common Law until now can a woman be entitled to exercise any public function.” (Aked) This is notable because, just as with the Reform Act of 1832, the ruling was a detriment to women, as women were already “exercising public functions”, such as overseers, way-wardens, church-wardens and members of school boards. This ruling was the first of several rulings and legislations that removed rights and governmental access from women.
These actions of the British Parliament led to the creation of several suffrage movement organizations in England, such as the Co-operative Society and The Labor Party, each with almost two and a half million members, as well as several smaller groups, such as The Women’s Liberal Association, The British Women’s Temperance Association, The Women’s Textile Union, The Women’s Labor League, The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, The Women’s Social and Political Union, and The Men’s League for Woman Suffrage, as well as many others. It is well known that Shaw was an avid proponent of women's freedom and suffrage, and it is quite possible that Shaw wrote Pygmalion with the idea of promoting women’s suffrage as, only three years earlier, he had already penned a
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