Written in 1860-1861, The Subjection of Women first appeared as a pamphlet in 1869, shortly after John Stuart Mill finished a three-year term as a member of the British parliament. While a member of Parliament, Mill presented a petition for woman’s suffrage (1866) and sponsored the Married Women’s Property Bill (1868). After losing his seat in Parliament in the 1868 election, Mill revised his early draft of the essay and published it. Mill’s primary activity in Parliament was aimed at the enfranchisement of women—their right to vote—and The Subjection of Women makes clear Mill’s liberal feminism and his commitment to gender equality.
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) profoundly influenced the shape of nineteenth century British thought and political discourse. His substantial corpus of works includes texts in logic, epistemology, economics, social and political philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, religion, and current affairs. Among his most well-known and significant are A System of Logic, Principles of Political Economy, On Liberty, Utilitarianism, The Subjection of Women, Three Essays on Religion, and his Autobiography.Mill’s education at the hands of his imposing father, James Mill, fostered both intellectual development (Greek at the age of three, Latin at eight) and a propensity towards reform. James Mill and led the “Philosophic Radicals,” who advocated for rationalization of the law and legal institutions, universal male suffrage, the use of economic theory in political decision-making, and a politics oriented by human happiness rather than natural rights or conservatism. In his twenties, the younger Mill felt the influence of historicism, French social thought, and Romanticism, in the form of thinkers like Coleridge, the St. Simonians, Thomas Carlyle, Goethe, and Wordsworth. This led him to begin searching for a new philosophic radicalism that would be more sensitive to the limits on reform imposed by culture and history and would emphasize the cultivation of our humanity, including the cultivation of dispositions of feeling and imagination (something he thought had been lacking in his own education).
The essay explores the publication and reception of J. S. Mill’s The Subjection of Women in Imperial Russia. Translated in 1869, the same year that the book came out in Britain, The Subjection of Women found a wide audience in Russia, attracting both feminist and conservative readers, many of whom had already been familiar with Mill’s name after the publication of his Principles of Political Economy in Russia nine years earlier. Until the end of Imperial period, the book was published in four translations and six editions, some of which were accompanied by extensive editorial introductions and followed by reviews in the leading Russian journals. The essay analyzes conservative and feminist responses to Mill’s ideas in the context of Russian intellectual and socio-political developments in the second half of the nineteenth century. It also highlights the similarities and differences in the reception of Mill’s feminist thought in Russia and in England.