Judith Sargent Murray, discussion questions


Reading/Discussion Questions

1) Judith Sargent Murray (1751-1820),

On the Equality of the Sexes

. Originally published in

The Massachusetts Magazine, or, Monthly Museum Concerning the Literature, History, Politics, Arts, Manners, Amusements of the Age

, Vol. II - For 1790. Printed at Boston. a.

The introductory poem: i.

What argument does she lay out in this poem? ii.

What does Murray mean by “noble passions”? What different kinds of iii.

passions have we encountered in other texts/experiments so far? Given the argument of the poem, does the form/genre contribute to this point? (In other words, why start with poetry?) b.

The essay: i.

What is the focus of her essay? In what regard does she speak of “equality of the sexes?” ii.

Analyze/explain how the essay rhetorically works in two different ways— both


an existing equality and


another type of iii.

equality! Analyze how Murray subdivides her argument into four areas of intellectual power—imagination, reason, memory and judgment! How iv.


does she develop her argument in each regard? How does Murray wield common stereotypes against women—such as vanity or overindulgence in fashion—in favor of her argument? What difference between “nature” and “education” does Murray describe vi.


with regard to the intellectual powers of men and women? What, according to Murray, are the effects of a lacking or banal education on women? What would be some of the positive outcomes of an


education? (Especially look for the question of choice in marriage, the subject of our sentimental novels! viii.



How would an equal education affect the relationship between the sexes? (especially, the


between the sexes?) Does she differentiate between physical and intellectual equality (and difference) between men and women? How does Murray dispel religious arguments for the superiority of men?