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The feminism of T.H. Green: a late-Victorian success story?

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Rather surprisingly, T.H.Green's ideas on women and the family are as neglected today as they were immediately after his death in 1882, when his thought was first interpreted for a wider public by his colleagues and friends.1 Silence on such matters in the 1880s is not remarkable. It is odd, however, that it persists today, despite recent intense concern with the history of women and the family, including their place in political thought, and despite reviving philosophical interest in the British Idealists and readiness to credit them with a significant impact on politics, education and social work. It has often been remarked that Green's political ideas have much in common superficially with those of John Stuart Mill, since their values and precepts are very similar, although the substructure of their thought is utterly different. Nevertheless it has altogether escaped notice that this is equally true of their ideas on women, marriage and family relationships. Today Mill's fabled feminism easily appears limited and imperceptive, and the priority he gave to the parliamentary vote strangely simplistic. Did Green show any greater realism and understanding? Did he practise as well as preach real equality between men and women, in private as well as public life? In short, what precisely was Green's position on ‘the woman question’?

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Queen Mary & Westfield College, University of London.

Publication date: 1991-04-01

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