London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1869. First edition. Original blind stamped yellow cloth binding; spine ruled and lettered in gilt; some darkening to spine; slight edge-wear. Original brown coated end-papers with owner’s signature; binder’s ticket to rear pastedown. Text block tight and clean. Near Fine copy.
Mill’s most important philosophical work on women’s equality, inspired by his wife and collaborator Harriet Taylor Mill, who in 1851 published her article “The Enfranchisement of Women” to support American women’s efforts at Seneca Falls. Drawing on his theory of Utility, which asserted the ethical imperative to pursue the greatest good for the greatest number of people, Mill pushes for an end to women’s subjugation. “The object of this Essay is to explain as clearly as I am able, the grounds of an opinion which …has been constantly growing stronger by the progress of reflection and the experience of life: That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes—the legal subordination of one sex to the other—is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other.” Throughout his career, Mill was an advocate for women’s equality, speaking on behalf of suffrage in Parliament and collaborating with suffrage organizations within the U.K. The persuasive success of this controversial text came from its focus on a comprehensible, two-pronged argument. “In a nutshell, then, Mill argued … that the liberation of women will produce two important results. It will benefit society by triggering the contributions of women in many fields, and it will benefit women by granting them the autonomy that is essential to happiness” (Shipka). (Item #1983)