Mary Astell on Virtuous Friendship

Parergon: Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies 26 (2):65-86 (2009)
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According to some scholars, Mary Astell’s feminist programme is severely limited by its focus on self-improvement rather than wider social change. In response, I highlight the role of ‘virtuous friendship’ in Astell’s 1694 work, A Serious Proposal to the Ladies. Building on classical ideals and traditional Christian principles, Astell promotes the morally transformative power of virtuous friendship among women. By examining the significance of such friendship to Astell’s feminism, we can see that she did in fact aim to bring about reformation of society and not just the individual.

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Jacqueline Broad
Monash University


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