Without Education–There is no “Happily Ever After”
Mary Astell is a firm believer that women’s rights are just as important as a man’s. In her essay Some Reflections Upon Marriage, she argues these positions. Mary Astell grew up in Newcastle in the late 17th century and was tutored at a young age by her uncle who obtained an education from Cambridge. Astell took hold of her education and ran with it. During this time period, women were not allowed an education in England. Astell gained much knowledge on women’s right’s issues at the time and sought for change.
One of the main intentions of Astell’s essay was to discuss how marriage is completely centered on the man and women don’t get much say of the selection of their partners. She argues, “A woman, indeed, can’t properly be said to choose; all that is allowed her, is to refuse or accept what is offered.” Astell is irritated by the lack of choice women have in marriage. She explains how no man can imagine himself not worthy of any woman of their choosing. It is Astell’s goal as an educated woman to explain the injustices and deceit behind marriage to bring awareness to others.
Astell and her well-eduacted and unmarried female peers founded a charity school for women. Women education has been making steps for a long time and Astell helped pave way for it.
Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai, is a global advocate for the millions of girls being denied a formal education and is planting schools across the world. She spoke out during an interview saying, “education helps you get an identity, it helps you to know about your basic human rights, it helps you to discover about yourself, about your talents, about your skills, and how you can help your community and your society.” Without education, you can’t truly figure out who you are and what your purpose in the world can be, besides coupling off and getting married since that is all they have ever known. Her aim is to raise girls’ voices and provide women with a proper education. Malala shares the same views as Astell, and believes women are deceived without education. How can a woman be warned about the dangers before them if they are never educated on them? Women’s rights have made incredible process over the past 2 centuries.
Astell points out that happiness is also an issue in marriage. She believes that fallings for one’s beauty is not a good enough reason to marry because that will fade. She writes, “there’s no great hopes of a lasting happiness; beauty with all the helps of art is of no very lasting date, the more it is helped the sooner it decays.” She believes once the initial giddiness of a relationship subsides, the wife falls bored and miserable. She is telling us to not fall for the “glitter and pomp of a wedding.” Once you get married you become a slave to your husbands needs and there is more a woman can do than just be a wife. She doesn’t want women to feel like the have to carry the burden of marriage. Astell describes how the cycle is unfair to women in general because they only know of the flattery received from men. Women have the idea that if they cannot find a husband they are incompetent. She is irritated by the lack of choice we have when in fact it shouldn’t be about our choice in just who we marry, but if we even want to get married at all.
According to US News article, Allie Bidwell states that, “Women today are more likely than men to complete college and attend graduate school, and make up nearly half of the country’s total work force.” This is exactly what Astell knew was possible. Because of this—women are more powerful, smarter, and motivated to follow their own work and dreams as opposed to searching for a husband and trailing behind him. Since Astell was one of the few educated women of her time she couldn’t understand why women keep falling into the trap. I think she would be pleased with the way society is turning out now. It is a slow process, but change is happening as women gain more degrees.
It is now becoming more socially expectable for women to marry later in life or stay single. According to Time’s article, Belinda Luscombe explains, “the three main reasons people give for their singleness are that they haven’t found the right person (30%), aren’t financially stable enough (27%) and are not ready to settle down (22%).” None of these would be as valid of reasons without gaining an understanding of the importance behind each one. Choice is important. If you haven’t found someone that will meet your needs, make you happy, and make you able to accomplish what you want—then what is the point of getting married at all? Marriage is not an expectation. It is a decision.
Mary Astell is forward with her views and made her opinion public. Her creative take on things seemed to be far before her time during the eighteenth century. Her argument on traditional marriage helped pave the way for women’s equality. Astell got the wheels turning for women to believe that they deserve an education and they deserve a choice in how they want to spend the rest of their life. I believe we still have a ways to go before everyone completely realizes how crucial this decision is. There is more to this world then being a wife. The more educated people are, the more aware they are of themselves and their purpose in this world.
Astell, Mary. “Some Reflections Upon Marriage.” The Longman Anthology of British Literature, fifth edition. New York: Longman 1999. 2283-2291. Print.
Bidwell, Allie. “Women More Likely to Graduate College, but Still Earn Less Than Men.” US News. US News & World Report, 31 Oct. 2014. Web. 24 Sept. 2015.
Luscombe, Belinda. “Why 25% of Millennials Will Never Get Married.” Time. Time, 24 Sept. 2014. Web. 24 Sept. 2015.
“Malala+yousafzai – Google Search.” Malala+yousafzai – Google Search. Live World Bank, n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2015.