Philo, the Good, the Generous and the Just

Philo, the Good, the Generous and the Just,

With manly Wisdom thinks the female Sex

Are mean, inferior creatures, only fit

For family concerns, domestic drudg’ry,

To nurse their Children, wait upon their husbands

Prepare them food, and keep their houses clean;

To wash, to brew, to scow’r and make their linnen,

And all the low conveniencies of Life

Which are beneath the care of wiser Man.

Or Woman if she’s young may serve perhaps

For Man to play and waste an idle hour with.

But to converse, to think or act with judgement

Is what a female cannot – was not made for.

If Philo reads, a Woman need not hear

(Why shou’d she?) what she cannot understand.

But shou’d we not, were education given,

Be wiser? Were our young and tender minds

But cultivated well with usefull Learning;

If – learning, what have girls to do with learning?

Their minds be cultivated well worth while,

Teach them to darn and stitch and make a pudding,

And, if they must, to dance and sing and curtsie –

This is enough for them. – ’tis well however

The generous Philo found not such a partner,

But one endow’d with nobler wisdom far

And fit for social converse, fit to manage

With prudent care his family affairs.

Ah why is Woman thus depress’d and scorn’d

By tyrant Man? if we’re less wise than they,

’Tis their own fault who cramp our education:

Nature has given us Souls as large as theirs;

As much our minds deserve to be improv’d.

We are as capable of learning all

That’s worthy knowledge. This our lordly Masters

Know well, and therefore prudently endeavour

To make us fools, that they with haughty rule

May keep us in subjection. If we had

Equal advantages, the same instruction

With them, we might perhaps much higher soar,

And with contemptuous airs look down on them

As they do now on us, or we at least

Should equal them in all that’s wise and best.

Text: MS, Steele Collection, Angus Library, Regents Park College, STE 3/3/6, no. 28; this poem first published in Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840, vol. 2 (ed. Julia B. Griffin), pp. 179-80. "Philo" is short for "Philander," the nom de plume used by Anne Steele's brother, William Steele IV.