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The Social and Political Philosophy of Mary Wollstonecraft$
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Sandrine Bergès and Alan M. S. J. Coffee

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198766841

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198766841.001.0001

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Wet-Nursing and Political Participation

Wet-Nursing and Political Participation

The Republican Approaches to Motherhood of Mary Wollstonecraft and Sophie de Grouchy

(p.201) 11 Wet-Nursing and Political Participation
The Social and Political Philosophy of Mary Wollstonecraft

Sandrine Bergès

Oxford University Press

Caring duties, which fall particularly to women, are not always compatible with the degree of public life that republican citizenship requires. This is sometimes held as a feminist objection to republicanism. This chapter addresses this objection by focusing on the case of the mothering of infants and wet-nursing in the writings of Wollstonecraft and de Grouchy, two feminist writers of the Enlightenment period. It argues that both writers believe that mothering is central to the development of republican values and that compassion enables the growth of republican sentiments. But for Wollstonecraft this is a double-edged sword. For women to earn the status of citizens they must, if they are mothers, perform all duties attending to motherhood, including breastfeeding their children. Unfortunately, it is those duties that conflict with republican citizenship. A comparison with de Grouchy’s own views on wet-nursing will point to a possible solution.

Keywords:   Wollstonecraft, republicanism, Sophie de Grouchy, mothering, wet-nursing, care

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