First American Edition
Duties of Women. Authorised Edition.
Boston: Geo. H. Ellis, 1881.
COBBE, Frances Power. The Duties of Women. Authorised Edition. Boston: Geo. H. Ellis, 1881.
First American edition, printed the same year as the first British edition. Small octavo
(6 11/16 x 4 13/16 inches; 170 x 122 mm). [3, blank], [1, publisher's ad], -193, [3, blank] pp. We could find no copies of this edition at auction besides a copy at Bangs in 1899, and no copies at all of the first London edition.
Publisher's printed brown wrapper. Lacking rear wrapper. Spine with some loss to top and bottom. Wrapper edges with some minor chipping. Some minor rubbing. A few pages with some minor creasing. Overall a very good copy.
Frances Power Cobbe was a writer and campaigner for women's rights, born in Dublin in 1822. "Cobbe's greatest contribution to the women's movement came from her writing. She published in almost every major periodical, writing on the problems of marriage and the virtues of celibacy; the need for women to have independent activities; and on the persistent ill health of women, which resulted from fashions which constricted their bodies, from a medical profession which defined women as invalids, and from the fact that, unlike men, women lacked the services of a wife. Her powerful article 'Wife torture in England' (Contemporary Review, 32, 1878), which illustrated the extent of domestic violence and sought to make 'aggravated assaults' grounds for judicial separation, played a significant part in the passing of the Matrimonial Causes Act of that year. The core of Cobbe's feminism lay in her belief in the moral autonomy of women on the one hand, and in her strong sense of sexual difference on the other. Women were rational beings with a primary duty to themselves and to their God, she argued, hence they could not submit themselves absolutely to the demands of either husband or parents. But Cobbe believed emphatically in the importance of sexual difference. She defined women as 'human beings of the mother sex' (F. P. Cobbe, The Duties of Women, 1881, 28) and insisted that innate maternal qualities would always determine what women did. Celibacy seemed preferable to marriage, in her view, but she assumed all celibate women would generally exercise their maternal qualities through some form of philanthropy... Ultimately Cobbe's most important contribution to nineteenth-century feminism lay in her attempts to set out a feminist ethic, developed most extensively in The Duties of Women (1881). One reviewer described her as the person who 'excepting John Stuart Mill, ... has done more than anyone else to give the dignity of principle to the women's movement' (Life of Frances Power Cobbe, Academy, 46, 1894)." (Oxford DNB).