Descartes’ female admirers

One of the really interesting things I’ve come across in my research is Descartes’ role in improving educational opportunities for women. He believed that girls should be educated as well as boys, and he made arrangements for his daughter to be educated in France. (She unfortunately died of scarlet fever at age 5, so this never came to pass.) Descartes is also known for his intellectual engagement with high-profile educated women, including Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia and Queen Christina of Sweden. But in addition to his direct contacts with women, Descartes’ ideas about mind-body dualism indirectly made a space for many more women to be educated. Since, according to him, the mind is completely independent of the body, then it makes no difference whatsoever what kind of body–male, female, young, old, etc.–the mind is housed in. The important thing is to approach knowledge with the appropriate frame of mind. For more detail on this fascinating topic, here are two excellent sources I found:

Reason’s Feminist Disciples: Cartesianism and seventeenth-century English women

Anna-Maria von Schurman and women’s natural right to study


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