The Education Offered to Women in 18th Century Britain

Updated: Apr 21

Elizabeth Hamilton's novel Memoirs of Modern Philosophers is a complex narrative that draws a contrast between three types of women living in 18th century Britain: Bridgetina Botherim, Julia Delmond, and Harriet Orwell. The novel was published in 1800 and is an Anti-Jacobin response to the revolutionary ideals that were touted to be promising for the British populous. She cleverly argues in this novel, using satire and narrative voice, that although modern philosophies promised liberties that could not be founded under the current patriarchal system, these very liberties would corrupt Britain. However, while Hamilton's views can be considered conservative, her stand on female education is very progressive. A view that was considered consistent with the views of Jacobin writers such as Mary Wollstonecraft, since both women believed women should be given an education that would fit them for life. By comparing the three women in Hamilton's novel: Memoirs of Modern Philosophers, one can see the impact of female education, as portrayed through the reading of New Philosophies as in the case of Bridgetina Botherim, and romantic tales as in the case of Julia Delmond, and their resulting negative social circumstances. This contrasts with the joyful result of an education that is of practical value, as is the case of Hariet.

Hamilton illustrates in this book how the education provided to these three women, by the reading made available to them, impacted their resulting social circumstances.This is an excellent read and is recommended for all.


Complex is not always a negative word

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