The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision
Published by: University of Notre Dame Press
Imprint: University of Notre Dame Press
Published: July 2021
410 Pages, 152.00 x 229.00 x 1.00 in, 21 b&w illustrations
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Erika Bachiochi offers an original look at the development of feminism in the United States, advancing a vision of rights that rests upon our responsibilities to others.
In The Rights of Women, Erika Bachiochi explores the development of feminist thought in the United States. Inspired by the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft, Bachiochi presents the intellectual history of a lost vision of women’s rights, seamlessly weaving philosophical insight, biographical portraits, and constitutional law to showcase the once predominant view that our rights properly rest upon our concrete responsibilities to God, self, family, and community.
Bachiochi proposes a philosophical and legal framework for rights that builds on the communitarian tradition of feminist thought as seen in the work of Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Jean Bethke Elshtain. Drawing on the insight of prominent figures such as Sarah Grimké, Frances Willard, Florence Kelley, Betty Friedan, Pauli Murray, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Mary Ann Glendon, this book is unique in its treatment of the moral roots of women’s rights in America and its critique of the movement’s current trajectory. The Rights of Women provides a synthesis of ancient wisdom and modern political insight that locates the family’s vital work at the very center of personal and political self-government. Bachiochi demonstrates that when rights are properly understood as a civil and political apparatus born of the natural duties we owe to one another, they make more visible our personal responsibilities and more viable our common life together.
This smart and sophisticated application of Wollstonecraft’s thought will serve as a guide for how we might better value the culturally essential work of the home and thereby promote authentic personal and political freedom. The Rights of Women will interest students and scholars of political theory, gender and women’s studies, constitutional law, and all readers interested in women’s rights.
1. Mary Wollstonecraft’s Moral Vision
2. Men, Marriage, Law, and Government
3. The Young Republic and the Unequal Virtues of the Agrarian Home
4. Women’s Suffrage, Rational Souls, Sexed Bodies, And the Ties that Bind
5. The Industrial Revolution and the Debate Between Abstract Rights and Concrete Duties
6. The “Feminine Mystique” and Human Work
7. Sex Role Stereotypes and the Successful Quest for Equal Citizenship Status
8. Caring for Dependency in the Logic of the Market
9. Sexual Asymmetry, American Law, and the Call for a Renewed Family Ecology
10. Reimagining Feminism Today in Search of Human Excellence
"Examining Wollstonecraft’s philosophical writings on sex, sexuality, and motherhood—as a lens through which to view the history of feminism in the United States—Bachiochi argues that between the 19th and 21st centuries, too many American women abandoned Wollstonecraftian ideals of virtue and fairness, replacing them with the self-defeating ideology (and various waves) of progressive feminism." —National Review
"The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision . . . portrays women as increasingly disadvantaged by principles that became prominent in the 20th century's conception of liberty. Rather than merely liberating, [Bachiochi] argues, the industrial and sexual revolutions have disrupted longstanding dynamics that allow the sexes to pursue authentic freedom; that is, the freedom to pursue virtue in familial and social relationships." —FoxNews
“Part history, part legal theory, and part political philosophy, The Rights of Women provides a compelling contribution to feminist dialogue, both applauding the gains and critiquing the missteps made during women’s quest for advancement. . . . Bachiochi offers a judicious analysis of women’s history that informs her refreshing portrait of dignitarian feminism.” —Law & Liberty
"Along with the maternal accompaniment of Our Lady, the Wollstonecraft-Glendon understanding of women’s rights—a truly ennobling and liberating moral vision—reimagines feminism, and Bachiochi’s book brilliantly explains how that understanding evolved." —National Catholic Register
"Bachiochi flips effortlessly from legal analysis to philosophical arguments to sociological observations to characters from classic literature in a way that is almost invisible to the reader . . . in a work that I would describe as, in many places, almost achingly beautiful." —Elizabeth R. Schiltz, co-editor of Feminism, Law, and Religion
“Rights cannot flourish alone. They need to be embedded in a thicker moral context that gives voice to the goods that they should serve, the social duties that govern their exercise, and the virtues that enable respect for them. In this book, Erika Bachiochi recovers a tradition of thought about women’s rights that fully recognizes this and, with Mary Wollstonecraft at one end and Mary Ann Glendon at the other, offers an important, salutary correction, not only to libertarian feminism in particular but also to contemporary rights-talk in general.” —Nigel Biggar, author of What’s Wrong with Rights?
"With clarity and boldness, Erika Bachiochi shows how the moral purpose underlying the case for truly equal rights has been lost even as those rights have been gained. Although it recounts a story of decline, The Rights of Women is ultimately filled with hope because it offers an alternative—a way to recapture the ideal of dignity that gives meaning to equality by grasping that the ultimate purpose of freedom is human flourishing and excellence." —Yuval Levin, author of A Time to Build
"Erika Bachiochi is one of the most brilliant and refreshingly original feminist legal scholars writing today. Uncowed by today's momentary orthodoxies, Bachiochi blends a rich understanding of tradition with compelling insights into present-day issues. No one writing in the field exceeds her gifts of insight, clarity, and scholarly fearlessness." —Michael Stokes Paulsen, author of The Constitution: An Introduction
"Bachiochi adds an important new voice to the conversation criticizing the nation’s turn to revering market profit and the freedom to be left alone above all else. Feminists may not agree with all of her critique of contemporary feminism, but they would do well to engage with her powerful argument that conceptualizing the movement’s goal as sex equality in the workplace is too narrow." —Maxine Eichner, author of The Free-Market Family
“InThe Rights of Women, legal scholar Bachiochi . . . builds an intellectual bridge across the generations of feminist thought from Mary Wollstonecraft to Mary Ann Glendon; offers a bracing critique of various currents in contemporary feminist theory; and thereby makes an important contribution to thoughtful reflection on contemporary American culture and society.” —First Things
"With this book, Bachiochi has presented a compelling counterargument to the prevailing narrative, depicting a notion of female equality and happiness that embraces a woman’s capacity for childbearing, encouraging sexual virtue and strong marriages as an antidote to the inequalities and injustices that abortion can never hope to solve." —Public Discourse
“The Rights of Women brilliantly articulates what should be a central concern and debate for feminists today.” —Helen M. Alvaré, author of Putting Children’s Interests First in U.S. Family Law and Policy
“The Rights of Women shows clearly that feminism took a wrong turn, especially following The Feminine Mystique. It also illuminates beautifully a path back to a more magnanimous feminism—one based on a true anthropology of womanhood, rather than the crabbed and diminished anthropology that today’s feminists have mistakenly embraced." —Praxis Circle