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John Stuart Mill claims this essay was co-written by his wife, Harriet Taylor Mill, in 1869. Some critics focus on this more than others. This essay was an affront to the conventional norms of views on stature of men and women. "The Subjection of Women" (1869) offered both detailed argumentation and passionate eloquence in bitter opposition to the social and legal inequalities commonly imposed upon women by a patriarchal culture. Just as in "On Liberty", Mill defends the emancipation of women on utilitarian grounds.
Mill was convinced that the moral and intellectual advancement of humankind would result in greater happiness for everybody. The Higher pleasures of the intellect yielded far greater happiness than the lower pleasure of the senses. He conceived of human beings as moral and intellectually capable of being educated and civilized. Mill believes everyone should have the right to vote, with the only exceptions being barbarians and uneducated people.
Mill argues that the reason people should be able to vote is to defend their own rights and to learn to stand on their two feet, morally and intellectually. This argument is applied to both men and women. Mill often used his position as an MP to demand the vote for women, a controversial position for the time.
In Mill's time women were generally subject to the whims of her husband and/or father. This was because of social norms which said women were both physically and mentally less able than men, and therefore needed to be "taken care of." Contributing to this view were social theories, i.e. survival of the fittest and biological determinism, drawn from the biological theory of evolution and also religious views supporting a hierarchical view of men and women within the family. The archetype of the ideal woman as mother, wife and homemaker was a powerful idea in 19th century society.
At the time of writing, Mill recognised that he was going against the common views of society and was aware that he would be forced to back up his claims persistently. Mill saw the inequality of women as a relic from the past, when might was right. It had no place in the modern world. Mill saw this as a hindrance to human development, since effectively half the human race were unable to contribute to society outside of the home. "Legal subordination of one sex to another is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a system of perfect equality, admitting no power and privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other." Wikipedia