The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision

Publication Date: July 15, 2021

Click here to purchase The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision from Notre Dame Press.

In The Rights of Women, EPPC Fellow Erika Bachiochi explores the development of feminist thought in the United States. Inspired by the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft, Bachiochi presents the intellectual history of a lost vision of women’s rights, seamlessly weaving philosophical insight, biographical portraits, and constitutional law to showcase the once predominant view that our rights properly rest upon our concrete responsibilities to God, self, family, and community.

Bachiochi proposes a philosophical and legal framework for rights that builds on the communitarian tradition of feminist thought as seen in the work of Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Jean Bethke Elshtain. Drawing on the insight of prominent figures such as Sarah Grimké, Frances Willard, Florence Kelley, Betty Friedan, Pauli Murray, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Mary Ann Glendon, this book is unique in its treatment of the moral roots of women’s rights in America and its critique of the movement’s current trajectory. The Rights of Women provides a synthesis of ancient wisdom and modern political insight that locates the family’s vital work at the very center of personal and political self-government. Bachiochi demonstrates that when rights are properly understood as a civil and political apparatus born of the natural duties we owe to one another, they make more visible our personal responsibilities and more viable our common life together.

This smart and sophisticated application of Wollstonecraft’s thought will serve as a guide for how we might better value the culturally essential work of the home and thereby promote authentic personal and political freedom. The Rights of Women will interest students and scholars of political theory, gender and women’s studies, constitutional law, and all readers interested in women’s rights.

Praise for The Rights of Women

The Rights of Women brilliantly articulates what should be a central concern and debate for feminists today.” — Helen M. Alvaré, author of Putting Children’s Interests First in U.S. Family Law and Policy

“Bachiochi flips effortlessly from legal analysis to philosophical arguments to sociological observations to characters from classic literature in a way that is almost invisible to the reader . . . in a work that I would describe as, in many places, almost achingly beautiful.” — Elizabeth R. Schiltz, co-editor of Feminism, Law, and Religion

“Rights cannot flourish alone. They need to be embedded in a thicker moral context that gives voice to the goods that they should serve, the social duties that govern their exercise, and the virtues that enable respect for them. In this book, Erika Bachiochi recovers a tradition of thought about women’s rights that fully recognizes this and, with Mary Wollstonecraft at one end and Mary Ann Glendon at the other, offers an important, salutary correction, not only to libertarian feminism in particular but also to contemporary rights-talk in general.” — Nigel Biggar, author of What’s Wrong with Rights?

“With clarity and boldness, Erika Bachiochi shows how the moral purpose underlying the case for truly equal rights has been lost even as those rights have been gained. Although it recounts a story of decline, The Rights of Women is ultimately filled with hope because it offers an alternative—a way to recapture the ideal of dignity that gives meaning to equality by grasping that the ultimate purpose of freedom is human flourishing and excellence.” — Yuval Levin, author of A Time to Build

“Erika Bachiochi is one of the most brilliant and refreshingly original feminist legal scholars writing today. Uncowed by today’s momentary orthodoxies, Bachiochi blends a rich understanding of tradition with compelling insights into present-day issues. No one writing in the field exceeds her gifts of insight, clarity, and scholarly fearlessness.” — Michael Stokes Paulsen, author of The Constitution: An Introduction

“Bachiochi adds an important new voice to the conversation criticizing the nation’s turn to revering market profit and the freedom to be left alone above all else. Feminists may not agree with all of her critique of contemporary feminism, but they would do well to engage with her powerful argument that conceptualizing the movement’s goal as sex equality in the workplace is too narrow.” — Maxine Eichner, author of The Free-Market Family

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