Published February 7, 2023
Erika Bachiochi, in her groundbreaking book The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision, makes novel contributions to feminist thought, rooted in the concerns of the earliest women’s rights advocates. First, Bachiochi gives us a more complete account of the legacy of Mary Wollstonecraft, an eighteenth-century philosopher whose insights on virtue, politics, and the family shaped the first feminists and hold promise for our contemporary political debates. Bachiochi’s careful analysis makes way for a second original argument: that in Wollstonecraft, we find a healthy corrective to flaws in modern feminism, particularly (for Bachiochi) its coupling of women’s equality with abortion rights. Third, by finding a present-day Wollstonecraftian approach in the scholarship of Harvard Law professor emerita Mary Anne Glendon, Bachiochi offers common ground for feminists of all stripes, something hard to find in the wake of Dobbs (the Supreme Court’s recent reversal of Roe v. Wade). The Rights of Women’s crucial challenge to a prevailing narrative, accessible to any educated reader, should be central to any college or graduate-level course on feminism and politics.
Gabrielle M. Girgis, Ph.D., is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.