Titone, Gender Equality in the Philosophy of Education: Catherine Macaulay's Forgotten Contribution

By Davis, Julie M. | Vitae Scholasticae, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview
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Titone, Gender Equality in the Philosophy of Education: Catherine Macaulay's Forgotten Contribution


Davis, Julie M., Vitae Scholasticae


Connie Titone. Gender Equality in the Philosophy of Education: Catherine Macaulay's Forgotten Contribution. New York: Peter Lang, 2004. ISBN: 0-8204-5174-6. 173 pages.

"The very word respect brings Mrs. Macaulay to my remembrance. The woman of the greatest abilities, undoubtedly, that this country has ever produced.--And yet, this woman has been suffered to die without sufficient respect being paid to her memory. Prosperity, however, will be more just ..."--Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792

Over 200 years after Mary Wollstonecraft expressed her appreciation for Catherine Macaulay, Connie Titone's Gender Equality in the Philosophy of Education: Catherine Macaulay's Forgotten Contribution (2004) has helped to ensure that Macaulay's contribution to educational philosophy will be recognized. (1) Titone's reclamation of Macaulay's treatise on educational thought--Letters on Education with Observations on Religious and Metaphysical Subjects (1790)--is an act with greater intentionality than simply remembering. It presents a deliberate, provocative call to credit the originality of Macaulay's appeal for public, coeducational schools and gender equity and to re-examine the spiritual premise of her educational thought. Titone invites us to critically examine the reasons why Macaulay's contributions have largely been discounted and forgotten. Why is there so little written about her? Why are reproductions of her work not widely available in critical reading editions? There is a dearth of primary and secondary sources for Macaulay researchers, which this engrossing book begins to redress.

Given Macaulay's obscurity in the historical record of what is largely a male-authored cannon of western, educational thought, the impact of her ideas in shaping late modern notions of coeducation is inestimable--we cannot know the Enlightenment and 19th century pedagogical thought that responded directly or indirectly to Macaulay when so little mention of her work is credited. Perhaps Macaulay is overlooked for the same reason that Wollstonecraft's coeducational philosophy went largely unclaimed for almost 200 years--Macaulay, like Wollstonecraft, died a scandalous woman. A noble woman by birth, Macaulay was largely self-educated in philosophy and history after being taught to read literature befitting a girl of her social class-"fairy tales, romances, and the Bible." (2) After marrying her first husband at age 29 and giving birth to her daughter, she began her career as a historian with the publication in 1763 of the first book in her eight-volume history of England. At this point, Macaulay was accepted as a public intellectual and political voice, renowned for the "manly" strength of her thinking. (3) Up through the time of her second marriage at age 47 to a man 26 years her junior of a questionable background, Macaulay was a lauded if somewhat eccentric public figure. After her second marriage, although she continued to travel, write, and correspond with leading political figures, (4) she was judged by her contemporaries to be a manly woman--a virago--certainly not a person whose educational thought for children was worthy of merit.

Titone presents what she terms Macaulay's proto-feminist thought both in the detailed excerpts from Letters she helpfully includes and in a charged, imaginary three-way debate she constructs among Macaulay and two well-respected contemporary women writers, Hester Chapone and Stephanie de Genlis, on the proper role and form of education for young girls.

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