Mary Astell
(1668 – 1731)

Mary Astell was a voluminous writer, who spanned both the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. She was the daughter of a merchant of Newcastle-upon-Tyne , where she was born in 1668. Mary was well educated, and among other accomplishments she was known for her linguistic abilities with the French language and she also had a good knowledge of the Latin tongue. Her uncle, who was a clergyman, observing her uncommon inclination toward learning, took her under his wing and taught her mathematics, logic, and philosophy.

She left her native home when she was about the age of twenty, and spent the remaining part of her life at London and Chelsea . Here she pursued her studies with diligence and was thus able to acquire a great proficiency in the exact sciences. She also extended her knowledge by reading many of the classic authors such as Seneca, Epictetus, Hierocles, Antoninus, Tully, Plato, and Xenophon.

Mary wrote such works as “An Essay in Defense of the Female Sex”, “A Serious Proposal to the Ladies”, and many other books and essays with the purpose of raising the standard of female education and female character. She was the first self-avowed feminist writer in English and, although she wrote anonymously, her authorship was widely known. She died at Chelsea , May 11, 1731 , and was buried there.

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