Feminists, philosophers, and liberals everywhere will toast the memory of John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). Arguably the most eminent English-speaking philosopher of the nineteenth century, his pioneering ideas were decades, sometimes centuries, ahead of their time.
Most celebrated among his many accomplishments was his groundbreaking On the Subjection of Women (1861). Cleverly avoiding many of the intellectual morasses into which later feminists fell, it argues simply and clearly that the emancipation of women would benefit all, on simple utilitarian grounds. In other words, we all get richer.
Yet Mill claimed that the credit for this work should largely go to his wife, Harriet Taylor, saying he was
“chiefly the amanuensis of my wife”
in the research and production of his work. He proclaimed her as the moving spirit and collaborator in all his works including those on liberty, politics, democracy,racial equality, slavery and many other causes whose advances we take far too much for granted today.
Sadly, she predeceased him. Both had tuberculosis, which carried him off too eventually, and we can only speculate what this remarkable pair might have achieved had antibiotics been available.
JS Mill is a name which should be shouted by progressives everywhere; but with him at all times was a truly great woman, as he was the first to acknowledge. Teamwork always wins best in the end.
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