Feminism in the 18th century and beyond

In the eighteenth century, enlightened ideas about the organization of society, including the position of women, arose in Europe. Feminism, the social and political movement that strives for gender equality, originated in this century.

etta palm first dutch feminist

Age of Enlightenment

The Enlightenment covers a period of roughly 1650 to 1800. During this period, a major change occurred in the thinking of man in Europe. Rationalistic equality thinking was gaining a foothold. Critical thinking and self-development of man were encouraged. The first critical comments about the position of women were a fact.

Mary Wollstonecraft

The British Mary Wollstonecraft is seen by some as the founder of feminism. She was a writer and philosopher. In 1792 she published the pamphlet A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which is still seen as the first feminist work. It was unique at that time that a woman wrote about her own position.  

Olympe de Gouges

Another founder of feminism is the French Olympe de Gouges. In 1791 she published the Declaration of the rights of women and female citizens. This was a critical nod to the Declaration of the rights of man and citizen. In her work she championed for the equal treatment of men and women, but also for unmarried mothers.

Feminism in the 18th century and beyond