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Anne Elliot: A Feminist Before Feminism

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Diana Doherty Dr. Holt-Fortin English 204 October 7, 2001 Anne Elliot: A Feminist Before Feminism Though by modern standards Anne Elliot would not be a feminist during the 19th century she was closer to being a feminist than the stereotypical woman of the time was. In fact, she was closer to it than any other female characters in Persuasion. The word feminist, according to Webster's Dictionary, is dated 1895. This means that the word began widespread usage (thus being entered into the dictionary) well after Persuasion ended. There are two definitions of the word feminism in the dictionary. However, only one is relevant to my topic and it is as follows: [Feminism is] "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes." Anne does not fit the dictionary definition of Feminism. During her conversation with Captain Harville in the second to last chapter Anne argues that women love longer than men. The fact that she in fact does not argue that they love equally as long ("social equality of the sexes") ...read more.


At twenty-seven, Anne was not yet married. Anne read many different genres of literature and, in doing so, educated herself on many topics. When she shares her opinions of literature with Captain Benwick, we find that she has experienced a sort of heightened knowledge of emotions (hers and others') in part due to her reading poetry. This knowledge of emotions and the human condition, so to speak, helps to make Anne more well rounded than most women. Her priorities are put in order according to her feelings and knowledge about them, rather than the potential of advancing into wealthier, even higher class social circles. Anne is surrounded with typical women of nobility, and those who wish they were. Anne's sister, Mary, has become a hypochondriac to get the attention she thinks she deserves and does not receive. Elizabeth, Anne's other sister, has become obsessed with being the lady of Kellynch Hall. Lady Russell, though she tries to appear intelligent and self-reliant, is not as learned in life lessons as Anne. She also "had a value for rank and consequence, which blinded her a little to the faults of those who possessed them." ...read more.


She holds some feminist ideals, but she does not make them her only conversation topic, or use solely those ideals to base decisions upon, no does she hide them. She proves to Wentworth, with her actions in his presence and those he hears about from others, that she is his equal. That, combined with long-lasting (equal) love of both people, puts Wentworth in Anne's hands and she takes him happily. In the 1800s, and in Anne's life, political and economic equality of the sexes were rarely spoken of. Those ideas were simply ridiculous at the time. In larger gatherings Anne was generally the only woman in the book who had intellectual conversations with men as well as conversing with women. That proves Anne knows she is the social equal of either sex, not a wall decoration to keep quiet and look pretty. In closing, Anne was a feminist before feminism. She was not radical, nor was she hateful. She focused on making sure that she did not take on the same traditional role her (female) peers were. Anne, in being herself and being comfortable with that, was a feminist. She may not have been in a picket line, but she broke the 19th century female mold. 2 ...read more.

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