John Stuart Mill: “The Subjection of Women”

This less well-known treatise of John Stuart Mill’s, written in 1861 and published in 1869, also reflects very modern ideas. It emanates from his Speeches and Declarations as a member of Parliament on behalf of the Reform Bill of 1867, which extended the suffrage to all men in Britain, but not to women. The theme of the pamphlet is equality of opportunity, and it provides the archetypal liberal statement of the promise of democracy to extend its advantages to any individual, regardless of the characteristics with which he or she has been born. Many of the debates now raging in advanced Western democracies are in effect replays of this central question. Mill brings to this debate his usual ruthless logic and calm forensics; he is both impassioned and reasoned. What is interesting about this text is its apparent lack of interest in the rights of minorities as such, and its sole concentration on the rights of the individual. It is a plea for individual—not group—equality. It stands as a variation on one of Mill’s richest themes: bettering the lot of those excluded from power and respect. 

Source: The Democracy Reader

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