French classical liberals and the issue of women’s rights

It is tempting for a liberty-minded historian to leave untouched the comforting presumption that French classical liberals, who championed freedom for the individual in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, must have upheld women’s rights too. Contemporary studies, while often obliterating the role of men in the development of feminist rhetoric, have found occasionally in the history of ideas some remarkable advocates well ahead of their times, and they have offered them as objects of uncritical admiration, in a sort of reconciliatory carnival. One easily concludes that feminism was burgeoning in every century, and that the rising tide was lifting up all boats. […]

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