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  • Susan Stoderl

Women Writers Through History | Mlle. Archambault (1724 - ?) French Feminist Essayist

Picture of a woman reading a book
Feminist 18th Century Writer

Mlle. Archambault was a French feminist and essayist. She campaigned for society to recognize female intellectual capabilities. In 1750, she published an essay entitled Dissertation sur la question: lequel de l’homme ou de la femme est plus capable de constance? (Essay on the Question: Are Men or Women More Loyal?). Late 18th-century rationalists believed reason to be the primary source of knowledge and truth. Certain concepts and knowledge are innate to the human mind and not derived from sensory experience, which enabled the downplaying of the physical differences between men and women.

Archambault’s essay uses a debate between Archambault and two anonymous male opponents to present her points. The men declare women are incapable of perseverance, courage, and the self-discipline to follow scholarly pursuits. Any fragility on a woman’s part has only to do with their body, just as men’s strength only applies to theirs. She believed God granted women superior intellectual qualities to compensate for their physical weakness. One male opponent concedes that a woman may be a better novelist because of their delicate style. However, could a woman attain a comprehensive education by only writing novels? Women do not possess the minds necessary to do math, sciences, or metaphysical speculation. They also, according to him, can’t develop moral principles. Instead, we should admire their ability to care for their children’s education and family life.

An unpublished manuscript by Mlle. Archambault, La femme peut-elle aller de pair avec l’homme tant par la force que par la solidité d’esprit? (Can Women be as equal to Men in Strength and Intellectual Ability?) can be found in the Bibliothèque de Laval in manuscript form.


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