THE DESCENT OF WOMEN TO THE POWER OF DOMESTICITY
FROM MARGARET CAVENDISH TO LAURA INGALLS WILDER
Is the virtue of domesticity a way for women to access civic power or is it a slippery slope to dependence and female subservience? Here I look at a number of philosophical responses to domesticity and trace a historical path from Aristotle to the 19th century Cult of Domesticity. Central to the Cult was the idea that women’s power was better used in the home, keeping everybody safe, alive, and virtuous. While this attitude seems to us very conservative, I want to argue that it has its roots in the republican thought of eighteenth-century France. I will show how the status of women before the French Revolutions did not allow even for power exercised in the home, and how the advent of republican ideals in France offered women non-negligible power despite their not having a right to vote.
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