There will be great reason to suspect the Men of jealousy; and it cannot be rash to say, that their only reason for locking up from us all the avenues of knowledge, is the fear of our excelling them in it. (...) Had we the same advantages of study allowed us which the Men have, there is no room to doubt but we should at least keep pace with them in the sciences, and every useful knowledge. It can only then be a mean dastardly jealousy in them to exclude us from those advantages, in which we have so natural a right to emulate them.
I think it evidently appears, that there is no science, office, or dignity, which Women have not an equal right to share in with the Men: Since there can be no superiority, but that of brutal strength, shewn in the latter, to entitle them to engross all power and prerogative to themselves: nor any incapacity proved in the former, to disqualify them of their right, but what is owing to the unjust oppression of the Men, and might be easily removed.
I wou'd therefore exhort all my sex (...) to betake themselves to the improvement of their minds (...) and (...) shew our selves worthy something from them, as much above their bare esteem, as they conceit themselves above us. In a word, let us shew them, by what little we do without aid of education, the much we might do if they did us justice; that we may force a blush from them, if possible, and compel them to confess their own baseness to us, and that the worst of us deserve much better treatment than the best of us receive.
The manner Women are bred in, (...) they are admitted to no share of the exercises which wou'd qualify them to attack or defend. They see themselves helplessly exposed to the outrages of a sex enslaved to the most brutal transports; and find themselves victims of contempt to wretches, whose prevalent strength is often exerted against them, with more fury and cruelty than beasts practise towards one another. Can our fear then be imputed to want of courage? Is it a defect? Or ought it not rather to be alledged as a proof of our sense: Since it wou'd be rather fool-hardiness than courage to withstand brutes, who want the sense to be overcome by reason, and whom we want vigour to repel by force of arms?
We must be at least as well qualified as [Men] to teach the sciences; and if we are not seen in university chairs, it cannot be attributed to our want of capacity to fill them, but to that violence with which the Men support their unjust intrusion into our places. (...) If then we set custom and prejudice aside, where wou'd the oddity be to see us dictating sciences from a university chair; since to name but one of a thousand, that foreign young lady, whose extraordinary merit and capacity but a few years ago forced a university in Italy to break through the rules of partiality, custom, and prejudice, in her favour, to confer on her a DOCTOR'S DEGREE, is a living proof that we are as capable, as any of the Men, of the highest eminences in the sphere of learning, if we had justice done us.
(...) How many ladies have there been, and still are, who deserve place among the learned; and who are more capable of teaching the sciences than those who now fill most of the university chairs? The age we live in has produced as many, as any heretofore (...) And as our sex, when it applies to learning, may be said at least to keep pace with the Men, so are they more to be esteem'd for their learning than the latter: Since they are under a necessity of surmounting the softness they were educated in (...) to which cruel custom seem'd to condemn them; to overcome the external impediments in their way to study; and to conquer the disadvantageous notions, which the vulgar of both sexes entertain of learning in Women. (...) it is self-evident, that many of our sex have far outstript the Men. Why then are we not as fit to learn and teach the sciences, at least to our own sex, as they fancy themselves to be?
What a wretched circle this poor way of reasoning among the Men draws them insensibly into. Why is learning useless to us? Because we have no share in public offices. And why have we no share in public offices? Because we have no learning. They are sensible of the injustice they do us, and therefore are reduced to the mean shift of cloaking it at the expence of their own reason. But let truth speak for once: Why are they so industrious to debar us that learning we have an equal right to with themselves, but for fear of our sharing with, and outshining them in, those public offices they fill so miserably? The same sordid selfishness which urged them to engross all power and dignity to themselves, prompted them to shut up from us that knowledge which wou'd have made us their competitors.
But where have [the Men] proved that we are not as capable of guarding ourselves from dangers, as they are of guarding us; had we the same power and advantages allowed us, which they have? (...) Are we safer under their conduct than our own? (...) There is scarce an instance in a million among Women, of one Woman of a middling capacity, who does not, or would not, govern herself better than most Men in parallel circumstances, if the circumvention, treachery, and baseness of that sex did not interfere. (...) Most Women are ruin'd, instead of being improv'd in heart or mind under the conduct of the Men. And therefore, since we are at most in no greater safety under their government than our own, there can be no solid reason assign'd why we shou'd be subject to it.
Let us treat Women as our equals, (says [the 'blubblering dotard' xD Cato]) and they will immediately want to become our mistresses. 'Tis Cato says it, and therefore there needs no proof. Besides, to oblige men to prove all they advance by reason, wou'd be imposing silence upon them; a grievance to which they are perhaps full as unequal as they pretend we are. But granting Cato to be infallible in his assertions, what then? Have not Women as much right to be mistresses, as the Men have to be masters? No, says Cato. But why? Because they have not. Such convincing arguments must make us fond of hearing him farther. If we make the Women our equals, they will demand that to-morrow as a tribute, which they receive to-day as a grace. But where is the grace in granting us a share in what we have an equal right to? Have not the Women an equal claim to power and dignity with the Men?
Then Cato is forced at last to own that the subjection we are kept under by that arrogant sex, is the effect of violence and imposition? This he does to compliment his own sex, with attributing all our merit to them. A sorry compliment (...) Is not this calling all his own sex fools? For surely nothing can be a greater proof of folly in the Men than to use violence and imposition, and to take perpetual pains to support both, only to make us act with affectation (...) So that either all the Men are downright changelings, by Cato's own confession, or this mighty oracle himself is a driveler, and to be heeded by none but such.
I shou'd not myself have thought [Cato] worth so much notice as I have here taken of him; but that the Men are weak enough in general, to suffer their sense to be led away captive, by such half-thinking retailers of sentences. Among whom, This in particular, was he worth the pains, might be easily proved to have been often grossly in the wrong in other matters as well as in the present case; and therefore, when he happens to be in the right, the merit of it is more to be imputed to blind chance than to his wisdom: Since the greatest fools, when active, may blunder into the right sometimes: And great talkers among many absurdities, must here and there drop a good saying, when they least design it. Of this stamp, are the generality of evidence brought against us. Men avers'd to the labour of thinking; who found reason a drudgery (...); who have gain'd all their reputation by a pretty gimness of expressions, which wou'd no more bear examination than their heads, their hearts, or their faces; and who (to mimic this sage) wou'd rather see common-sense in confusion, than a word misplaced in one of their sentences. Yet these are sages among the Men, and their sentences are so many divine oracles; whereas perhaps, had we lived in their own times, to have heard the many more foolish things they said than sensible ones, we shou'd have found them as oafish as the dupes who revere them. And tho' perhaps we might have been more surprized to hear such dotards talk sometimes rationally, than we now are, to read their sayings; we shou'd have had reason still to think them more fit to extort our admiration than deserve it. Care has been taken to hand down to us the best of their sentences, many of which nevertheless are weak enough: But had the same care been taken to register all their absurdities, how great a share of their present applause wou'd they have lost!
If from immemorable time, the Men had been so little envious, and so very impartial, as to do justice to our talents, by admitting us to our right of sharing with them in public action; they wou'd have been as accustomed to see us filling public offices, as we are to see them disgrace them; (...) A Schurman, with a thesis in her hand, displaying nature in it's most innocent useful lights, wou'd have been as familiar a sight, as a Physician in his chariot (...): And an Amazon, with a helmet on her head, animating her embattled troops, wou'd have been no more a matter of surprize than a milliner behind a counter with a thimble on her finger (...). Not reason then, but error and ignorance cased in custom, makes these superficial creatures think it an unnatural sight.
IT is enough for the Men to find a thing establish'd to make them believe it well grounded. In all countries we are seen in subjection and absolute dependence on the Men, without being admitted to the advantages of sciences, or the opportunity of exerting our capacity in a public station. Hence the Men, according to their usual talent of arguing from seemings, conclude that we ought to be so. (...)But why do the Men persuade themselves that we are less fit for public employments than they are? Can they give any better reason than custom and prejudice form'd in them by external appearances (...)? (...) For if Women are but consider'd as rational creatures, abstracted from the disadvantages imposed upon them by the unjust usurpation and tyranny of the Men, they will be found, to the full, as capable as the Men, of filling these offices.