London: Alexander Strahan, 1865. First Edition. Original red publisher's cloth binding, with gilt to spine and front board. Light shelfwear to extremities and gentle rubbing to bottom corner of front board. Dark green endpapers with binder's ticket to rear pastedown. Minor light foxing to preliminaries. Else a pleasing copy internally, fully unopened and unread. Complete, with publisher's catalogue to rear. A rare and important work that has never appeared at auction and constitutes Parkes' most important public contribution to the women's movement she helped establish.
"Let women be thoroughly developed. Let women be thoroughly rational. Let women be pious and charitable. Let women be properly protected by law. Let women have fair chances of a livelihood...And lastly let women have ample access to all stores of learning." Herself the beneficiary of a family that believed in equal education for all its children, Bessie Rayner Parkes dedicated her life to aiding women of all social strata in accessing education and job training, and in gaining ownership over their own bodies and wages. As she moved through literary and political circles that included such luminaries as Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Barbara Bodichon, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, she drew support for what would become England's first organized women's movement. "Due to her efforts, it became acceptible for a middle-class woman to acquire a proper education" (Lowndes). In this collection of ten essays, Parkes advocates for the role education plays in improving women's status as innovators and as wage-earners. She notes across the book that regardless of social fantasies that positioned women as domestic creatures, women have always and by necessity performed work outside the home. Of particular concern here, are on the disadvantages faced by the women working as teachers and governesses, who educate children but were denied high quality education in their own childhoods. And she connects this poor education of women to an overall system that considers them property rather than people. "The law throws the gifts or the earnings of married women so completely into their husbands' power that the father is little tempted to save up his money to give to another man; nor to train up his daughter expensively, when another man has legal power over the fruits of her education." Ultimately, Parkes asserts, women married and unmarried must be educated and must be allowed to control what their educations produce, whether that be employment, wages, or innovations.
Feminist Companion to Literature 833. Near Fine (Item #2301)