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Mary Astell (1668–1731)

Author of A Serious Proposal to the Ladies

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Mary Astell was the daughter of an upper-middle class Newcastle merchant family. At age 18, after the death of her mother, Mary moved to London, where she moved in intellectual and literary circles that included Lady Mary Chudleigh, Judith Drake, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and John Norris. She also was in contact with William Sancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury, who introduced her to her future publisher. A firm believer in higher education for women, Mary Astell is known as the first English feminist for her writings on the subject. A Serious Proposal to the Ladies for the Advancement of their True and Greatest Interest (1694) and A Serious Proposal, Part II (1697), were originally published anonymously. Although her name did not appear in the books, her identity was discovered and her rhetorical style was much praised by her contemporaries. Mary also published Some Reflections upon Marriage, Occasion'd by the Duke and Duchess of Mazarine's Case; Which is Also Considered (1700), and other religious and political writings, including critiques of the works of John Locke.
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