Marriage, slavery, and the merger of wills: responses to Sprint, 1700-0 I

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This chapter examines three seventeenth-century feminist critiques of the misogynist pamphleteer John Sprint (fl. 1699-1700). It demonstrates that an ideal of freedom as rational self-governance-controlling one's own will in conformity with the law of reason-plays a crucial role in the arguments of Sprint's key critics, Eugenia, Mary Astell, and Mary Chudleigh. In their responses to Sprint, these Englishwomen highlight the moral dangers of the marital relationship, and especially the threat that such relationships pose to a woman's capacity for rational self-governance. They argue that marriage thwarts this capacity if a wife is expected to 'merge her will' with that of her husband (as Sprint had suggested), such that she only ever thinks and desires what he himself thinks and desires. The chapter concludes by drawing parallels between these women's views and those of recent feminist theorists of autonomy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWomen and Liberty, 1600-1800
Subtitle of host publicationPhilosophical Essays
Editors Jacqueline Broad, Karen Detlefsen
Place of PublicationOxford UK
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9780198810261
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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