The Enlightenment was a time when writers and thinkers sharply debated questions about womens rights. Issues of womens options were framed in terms of patriotic motherhood. liberty, natural rights, and emancipation from familial control. Illustrious women were a vital part of these debates, either in participation through their own writings or as salonnieres, gathering the talented and witty of France together together.
1) Madame de Staël: The Passionate Philosophe and Salonnière Erudite essay on this salon hostess, political writer, astute critic of Enlightenment ideals. Includes autobiographical memoirs and poems.
2) Madame de Staël: The Inveterate Idealist Essay on Madame de Staëls passions as a thorn in the establishments side. Also, her enthusiasm that united art, poetry, and politics.
3) Sor Juana de la Cruz Sor (Sister) Juanas writings reveal her as one of the greatest intellectuals of her time. Link provides a short biography plus excerpts from her moving letter to the Bishop of Puebla, Mexico, defending the right of a woman to pursue a scholarly life.
4) Mary Wollstonecraft Short biography of this 18th century writer and intellectual whose works influenced the struggle of women beyond England.
5) Mary Wollstonecraft Quotes Students might take turns reading outloud.
6) Mary Wollstonecraft Debates Jean-Jacque Rousseau, 1791 Short primary source lesson on both sides of the issue of womens rights.
7) Catherine the Great (1729-96): Empress of Russia Short biography stressing her Enlightenment views and interest in the writings of the philosophers of the period.
8) How Voltaire praised the 'enlightened despot,' Catherine the Great Guardian June 2006 article on the satirist's heartfelt letters to the woman he admired.
9) Catherine the Great: First She Read, Then She Ruled 2011 NPR interview about Catherine the Great by her biographer, Robert Massie. Might listen, or read it outloud.