Erika Bachiochi offers an original look at the development of feminism in the United States, advancing a vision of rights that rests upon our responsibilities to others.
In The Rights of Women, Erika Bachiochi explores the development of feminist thought in the United States. Inspired by the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft, Bachiochi presents the intellectual history of a lost vision of women’s rights, seamlessly weaving philosophical insight, biographical portraits, and constitutional law to showcase the once predominant view that our rights properly rest upon our concrete responsibilities to God, self, family, and community.
Bachiochi proposes a philosophical and legal framework for rights that builds on the communitarian tradition of feminist thought as seen in the work of Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Jean Bethke Elshtain. Drawing on the insight of prominent figures such as Sarah Grimké, Frances Willard, Florence Kelley, Betty Friedan, Pauli Murray, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Mary Ann Glendon, this book is unique in its treatment of the moral roots of women’s rights in America and its critique of the movement’s current trajectory. The Rights of Women provides a synthesis of ancient wisdom and modern political insight that locates the family’s vital work at the very center of personal and political self-government. Bachiochi demonstrates that when rights are properly understood as a civil and political apparatus born of the natural duties we owe to one another, they make more visible our personal responsibilities and more viable our common life together.
This smart and sophisticated application of Wollstonecraft’s thought will serve as a guide for how we might better value the culturally essential work of the home and thereby promote authentic personal and political freedom. The Rights of Women will interest students and scholars of political theory, gender and women’s studies, constitutional law, and all readers interested in women’s rights.
1. Mary Wollstonecraft’s Moral Vision
2. Men, Marriage, Law, and Government
3. The Young Republic and the Unequal Virtues of the Agrarian Home
4. Women’s Suffrage, Rational Souls, Sexed Bodies, And the Ties that Bind
5. The Industrial Revolution and the Debate Between Abstract Rights and Concrete Duties
6. The “Feminine Mystique” and Human Work
7. Sex Role Stereotypes and the Successful Quest for Equal Citizenship Status
8. Caring for Dependency in the Logic of the Market
9. Sexual Asymmetry, American Law, and the Call for a Renewed Family Ecology
10. Reimagining Feminism Today in Search of Human Excellence
Erika Bachiochi is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a senior fellow at the Abigail Adams Institute, where she founded and directs the Wollstonecraft Project. She is the editor of Women, Sex, and the Church: A Case for Catholic Teaching and The Cost of “Choice”: Women Evaluate the Impact of Abortion.
"Examining Wollstonecraft’s philosophical writings on sex, sexuality, and motherhood—as a lens through which to view the history of feminism in the United States—Bachiochi argues that between the 19th and 21st centuries, too many American women abandoned Wollstonecraftian ideals of virtue and fairness, replacing them with the self-defeating ideology (and various waves) of progressive feminism." —National Review
"The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision . . . portrays women as increasingly disadvantaged by principles that became prominent in the 20th century's conception of liberty. Rather than merely liberating, [Bachiochi] argues, the industrial and sexual revolutions have disrupted longstanding dynamics that allow the sexes to pursue authentic freedom; that is, the freedom to pursue virtue in familial and social relationships." —FoxNews
“Part history, part legal theory, and part political philosophy, The Rights of Women provides a compelling contribution to feminist dialogue, both applauding the gains and critiquing the missteps made during women’s quest for advancement. . . . Bachiochi offers a judicious analysis of women’s history that informs her refreshing portrait of dignitarian feminism.” —Law & Liberty
"Along with the maternal accompaniment of Our Lady, the Wollstonecraft-Glendon understanding of women’s rights—a truly ennobling and liberating moral vision—reimagines feminism, and Bachiochi’s book brilliantly explains how that understanding evolved." —National Catholic Register
"Bachiochi offers us a cohesive historical lens through which to adopt Wollstonecraft’s program of virtue today, even as we already see it bearing fruit in households that we admire. 'Without that intentional human development properly prioritized in the life of the home,' Bachiochi asserts, 'persons (and markets) [will] do little good outside of it.'" —The Interim
"The purpose of freedom is for human flourishing, not flouting the virtues, as this excellent work so clearly demonstrates." —Catholic Medical Quarterly
"Bachiochi’s work is a call to reimagine feminism. What if men and women pursued equality, not as self-destructive license, but as freedom for the sake of human excellence? " —National Catholic Register
"At the heart of Erika Bachiochi’s The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision is the assertion that human beings are not defined by autonomy but rather by relations of dependency and obligation." —The Catholic World Report
"Bachiochi takes her readers on a thorough and scholarly examination of leading feminist thought as it developed through the past 200-plus years, through the lens of early feminist author Mary Wollstonecraft. . . . Let us hope that Bachiochi’s vision is realizable, for it would certainly be the beginning of a more humane world, for both sexes." —The University Bookman
"In Bachiochi’s book, we see Wollstonecraft’s legacy percolate through the 19th-century American women’s movement—in which the tension between individualism and life in common hums." —UnHerd
"Erika Bachiochi, in her book The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision, offers a memorial to Wollstonecraft, an effort to reclaim the moral vision of this early feminist for our time. . . . I earnestly commend Bachiochi’s book to a wide audience and to feminists of every stripe." —Marginalia
"Rights of Women doesn’t claim to be a conservative book, but it renews a challenge that cuts to the heart of the conservative movement." —The American Conservative
"Erika Bachiochi’s The Rights of Women is the most impressive anti-abortion book to appear in years." —First Things
"Now and then a book comes along that changes the way one thinks about the world. Erika Bachiochi's The Rights of Women is one of these books." —Modern Age
"Women’s (and men’s) freedom is linked to the response to the question, what are freedoms for? According to Bachiochi’s account, freedoms are rooted neither in the market, nor in power clashes or gender antagonism, but in a heritage that celebrates everyday human flourishing." —Church, Communication, and Culture
"Just as Wollstonecraft challenged prevalent mistakes in thinking about the rights of women, so too Bachiochi is uprooting mainstream myths about what women’s wellbeing and success require today. The effort of students and teachers to read her work carefully will be well-rewarded." —American Journal of Jurisprudence
ISI Conservative Book of the Year Finalist
Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award: Women's Studies, Silver Medal
Catholic Media Association Book Award: Marriage & Family Living, Third Place