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In the face of the prevalence of discrimination and “masculine self-interest”6, Emma Hart Willard “contended that women were entitled to the same dignities and freedoms as men . . .”7 As early as 1819, she published a “Plan for Improving Female Education” which would not only enable women to teach their children but would be a means of enlarging their world beyond the domestic sphere and into the workplace8. However, it was the Seneca Falls convention in 1848, with the adoption of the Declaration of Sentiments–fashioned after the Declaration of Independence–that facilitated the eventual redefinition and movement towards New Womanhood. The work History of Woman Suffrage notes that at such meetings “it is striking how many women doctors are mentioned as either attending the meetings or corresponding with women’s rights leaders. . . . Their stories dramatize . . . the prejudice that they faced . . .” in their struggles to remove the shackles of their jailers9. The women who were portrayed by Charlotte Gilman in her work forged ahead and challenged patriarchal ideologies. Women could move beyond the constrictions of the ideology, the Cult of True Womanhood. The existence of the institution of marriage, in which men played the dominant role and wielded control, placed women at the mercy of their male counterparts. Romanticizing of woman’s role in the family and home segregated women, barring them from the public domain became a thing of the past. The terms masculine and feminine are used symmetrically only as a matter of form, as on legal papers. In actuality the relation of the two sexes is not quite like that of two electrical poles, for man represents both the positive and the neutral, as is indicated by the common use of man to designate human beings in general. whereas woman represents only the negative, defined by limiting criteria, without reciprocity. ‘The female is a female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities,’ said Aristotle. ‘we should regard the female nature as afflicted with a natural defectiveness.’ And St Thomas for his part pronounced woman to be an ‘imperfect man’, an ‘incidental’ being.

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