Wikipedia:Today's featured article/February 7, 2008

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First page of the first edition of Thoughts (1787)

Thoughts on the Education of Daughters is British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft's first published work. Published in 1787 by her friend Joseph Johnson, Thoughts is a conduct book that offers advice on female education to the emerging British middle class. Although dominated by considerations of morality and etiquette, the text also contains basic child-rearing instructions, such as how to care for an infant. An early version of the modern self-help book, the eighteenth-century British conduct book drew on several literary traditions, such as advice manuals and religious narratives. There was an explosion in the number of conduct books published during the second half of the eighteenth century, and Wollstonecraft took advantage of this burgeoning market when she published Thoughts. However, the book was only moderately successful: it was favourably reviewed, but only by one journal and it was reprinted only once. Although it was excerpted in popular magazines of the time, it was not republished until the rise of feminist literary criticism in the 1970s. The book encourages mothers to teach their daughters analytical thinking, self-discipline, honesty, contentment in their social position, and marketable skills (in case they should ever need to support themselves). (more...)

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