London: Williams and Norgate, 1881. First Edition. Original publisher's red binding with giltto spine and black decorative stamping to front board. All edges brightly gilt. Light rubbing to spine and corners, spine slightly cocked, and small bump to edge of front board. Internally clean and complete, with only minor foxing on preliminary leaves and a contemporary inscription to the front endpaper: "To Gwen Morgan from one who loves & reverences the Author. Breen 1882." Collates , [1, blank], viii, 164 pages: complete. Currently the only first edition on the market, this early feminist text is a rarity which OCLC reports at only 10 US institutions.
Considered Cobbe's most important work, The Duties of Women encouraged all women to view education, political emancipation, and philanthropic work as ethical imperatives. Having been educated at home by her mother, Cobbe knew the importance of women passing their knowledge down to their daughters; and she spent her early career working alongside girls' education advocate Mary Carpenter to develop free schools for the benefit of lower income children. According to Cobbe, a Victorian woman's domestic role as wife, mother, and educational guidepost to her children should not be disrupted but should be enhanced by the pursuit of enfranchisement and education; this is why, she declares, she commits herself longterm to the advancement of women. "I have been for many years interested in what is called 'the Woman's Movement,' and have taken part in pleading for the Higher Education of women; for the admission of women to University Degrees...Looking back over these years, I have not lost one jot of faith in the righteousness or expediency of our demands." For Cobbe, educated women will be the figures who improve the condition of humanity. Near Fine (Item #2276)