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If some of us feel the inequity of a world in which Passion and Mary Wollstonecraft 27 women’s work – housework – does not attract social and political recognition in the form of a wage, others of us will ask what there is to be said for a world in which everything is done for a wage, or is not done at all, and we will suspect that this is, ultimately, a world in which we know the price of everything and the value of nothing. 1 My aim is to indicate that these texts are more radical than is usually believed: far from being merely criticisms of the legal disabilities suffered by women in Victorian Britain, they are important moral texts, which anticipate central themes within twentieth-century radical feminism.

My wishes cannot help him. ’21 This is a hard doctrine, for it is surely the case that a sympathetic ear may often be of comfort. But in such a case I precisely am in a position to alter the situation of the man who suffers. 22 I am not therefore persuaded that the value of the human gesture is paramount here in the sense required by Kant’s critics.

12 For Mill, the moral health of society is the highest good, calling for constant care and sustenance if decay is not to set in. ’13 It is this moral regeneration which is Mill’s fundamental aim, and it is his specific conception of what such ‘regeneration’ might involve that so appalled his contemporaries. I shall now attempt to substantiate this claim further – first by discussing the connections between John Stuart Mill’s The Subjection of Women and Harriet Taylor’s The Enfranchisement of Women, and then by indicating what I take to be the precise nature of moral improvement as far as the woman question is concerned.

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