Mary Wollstonecraft (MW): I am Mary Wollstonecraft from London, United Kingdom. I am from the 18th century, the era that rated women as second-class people. During my time, women were taught to center their minds and time to family matters only. We were viewed as pure and clean, thus, all heavy labor was assigned to the men in our lives. They said our most important role was to keep the family together, have children, and tend the home. We cannot also be used for pleasurable sex (Bio).
Catherine Beecher (CB): I am Catherine Beecher from the illustrious Beecher clan of New York City, USA. The 19th century was characterized by the separate spheres that men and women were expected to cross. While men led and lived a very public life full of socializations, women were expected to take care of domestic affairs, such as cooking, cleaning, and childrearing (Sailus). We had no free time whatsoever because we were always expected to do things for the family. So, in effect, we had to make sure we were available the entire 24 hours.
MW: Oh, so it is very much the same as in the 18th century! We were deprived of our right to education. I actually think that is how they wanted it because 18th and 19th century women already showed signs of strength and wisdom despite being kept away from opportunities that men had.
CB: That is true, which is why together with Sarah J. Hale, I “spearheaded the campaign to convince school boards that women were suited to serve as schoolteachers” (“Women’s Rights”). I believed then that women have many talents and are capable of leading. I pushed for women’s education because back then, although some of us were allowed to work, we were paid abysmally low salaries.
MW: We apparently share the same sentiments when it comes to women’s education. In 1972, I wrote “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” where I expressed my disappointment on how we were being treated – as “helpless adornments of a household” (Bio). I said that this is what frustrates us women because we did not have other means to convey our thoughts and creativity, thus, we end up becoming tyrants to our children and servants. I said this can only be changed if both men and women were given equal opportunities to education. Did you get to read my other work, “Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman”? I further shocked everyone with my assertion that “women had strong sexual desires and that it is degrading and immoral to pretend otherwise” (Bio). I am sure lots of my contemporaries raised their eyebrows on that one.
CB: That’s a good one! Considering what is happening now in the 20th century, I am highly satisfied that women are given the same opportunities as men when it comes to education and employment. In fact, I see that some women are even given the chance at leadership positions that were once controlled by the male population.
MW: That is true. Women now are more empowered than we were during our time. Women’s strength and intelligence shine through in the way they handle their educational aspirations and career path. More women are pushing for higher education, thus, the playing field has become on the same level for men and women. Now, women are more in touch about their sexuality and have no qualms about expressing their femininity and strength. It’s good that the values and sentiments we fought for during our time have continued to this day.
Bio. (n.d.). Mary Wollstonecraft biography. Biography.com. Retrieved from http://www.biography.com/people/mary-wollstonecraft-9535967#synopsis
Sailus, Christopher. (n.d.). Feminism in the 19th century: Women’s rights, roles, and limits. Education Portal. Retrieved from http://education-portal.com/academy/lesson/feminism-in-the-19th-century-womens-rights-roles-and-limits.html
Women’s Rights. (n.d.). Digital History. Retrieved from http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtid=2&psid=3539