In seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Britain (as in France), women's primary duties included reproduction, both in terms of procreation and, to a lesser extent, cultural reproduction. And yet, as women were also responsible for the early education of the very young, they were often the subject of educational debates attempting to determine how (and if) women could themselves be educated. The resulting pedagogy, designed by men like François Fénelon, trained women to "behave" rather than to reason. Pro-woman advocates like Bathsua Makin, Mary Astell, and Judith Drake worked to reassert a Cartesian separation of mind from body at a time when habituation and mechanistic philosophy, as well as medical rhetoric about reproduction, threatened to relegate them to a kind of birthing "cattle." Astell and her contemporaries used considerable rhetorical acumen to address this "unthinking mechanical way of living" by redressing a pedagogical rhetoric of habitual (re)production. This article provides a more nuanced view of the context in which these women wrote their polemics, while demonstrating the potential of women's rhetoric in the face of burgeoning mechanistic philosophy in education and, indeed, in the medical theater of reproduction technology.


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pp. 111-137
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