Norwich [CT]: Printed by Ebeneezer Bushnell, . First American edition. Contemporary full brown sheep with faint gilt to spine. Gentle rubbing to spine and boards, and bumps to corners. Measures 95 x 165mm (pages). Collates [iv], 133, [1, blank]: complete. Contemporary ownership signature to front endpaper reads "Caty M. Havens Bot at Northampton June 17th 1795." Light scattered foxing throughout, but otherwise a tight, neat, unmarked copy. First printed in London in 1787, Strictures on Female Education made its initial appearance in the U.S. under the Bushnell imprint with the byline "By a Clergyman"; an edition released in Philadelphia the next year name the author as Reverend John Bennett. ESTC records 16 known copies at institutions. Presently the only copy on the market, and with its last appearance at auction over a decade ago, this important work on women's intellectual equality has become quite scarce.
"When we consider the natural equality of women with the other sex, their influence upon society, and their original destination to be the companion of man...it may justly appear a matter of amazement that their education has so much and so generally been neglected." From the outset of his collection of four essays on women's education, Bennett assumes women's intellectual capability and situates them as the equals of men. And he takes society to task for preventing women from the same type of training and mental growth that is provided to their male counterparts; and he highlights that even while the system bars women from rigorous education, it criticizes them for lacking that training. "We expect a rich, spontaneous harvest from an untilled soil; and whilst we make their failings inevitable by our remissness, we fail not to load them with the heaviest censure, ridicule, and contempt." In the essays that follow, Bennett examines the history and failings of systems of women's education at home and abroad; he makes observations on how the improvement of women's education can and will uplift public knowledge and taste; he conducts a comparison of male and female talent to show that, when provided with equal training, equal possibilities exist; and he concludes with an examination and critique of contemporary boarding schools, highlighting their shortcomings and urging rigorous exploration within spaces that encourage curiosity rather than fashionable accomplishment or rote learning. Bennett's arguments were timely for American audiences, as the first female seminaries and institutes of higher education had yet to be founded (the first would come in 1821, when Emma Willard would establish the Troy Seminary with her sister Almira Phelps). His positions would influence curriculum development as well as provide support for the women's arguments on behalf of girls' education.
ESTC W3578. (Item #2733)