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This paper examines the concept of liberty at the heart of Sarah Chapone s 1735 work, The Hardships of the English Laws in Relation to Wives. In this text, Chapone (1699-1764) advocates an ideal of freedom from domination that closely resembles the republican ideal in seventeenth and eighteenth-century England. This is the idea that an agent is free provided that no one else has the power to dispose of that agent s property-her life, liberty, and limb and her material possessions-according to his arbitrary will and pleasure, without being accountable to the law. Chapone uses this ideal to ground her arguments against those laws that put married women in a worse condition than slavery, and to call for the establishment of reasonable and just safeguards for a woman s property. More than this, it is argued, she articulates a feminist ideal that is both negative freedom from domination and positive freedom to be one s own master. Her work thus occupies a unique-and hitherto unrecognized- place in the history of feminist philosophy.
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