Many of the roots of modern feminism lie in France. This may surprise readers who are more familiar with feminism than they are with France. After all, the philosophic masterworks of early feminism, from Mary Wollstonecraft 's Vindication of the Rights of Woman ( 1792) to John Stuart Mill's Subjection of Women ( 1869), appeared chiefly in the English language. The first large organizations dedicated to seeking women's rights emerged in Britain and the United States, and the first great feminist reforms, the Married Women's Property Acts, were won across America ( 1839-50) and in Britain ( 1882) long before France adopted the Schmahl Law of 1907. In the global struggle to win women's suffrage, Australia, New Zealand, and Scandinavia often led in the adoption of feminist reforms, whereas French women did not even win the vote until 1945.
Such facts show that modern feminism reached its first maturity chiefly in Protestant states, where doctrines of individualism flourished. This pattern, however, should not obscure the roots of feminism in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century France. Parisian salons, organized and directed by women such as Madame Geoffrin, involved women in the greatest debates of a lively age. The more enlightened philosophers who assembled there, such as the Marquis de Condorcet, advocated women's rights as early as the 1780s. Subsequently, the French Revolution, despite its record of hostility to women's issues, stimulated the growth of feminism by forcing a long European reconsideration of human rights. It produced an eloquent manifesto calling for women's rights in Olympe de Gouges's Declaration of the Rights of Women ( 1791), and it saw the birth of women's political clubs, the precur