Masham and me

Regan Penaluna in aeon:

In 1696, Damaris Cudworth Masham, an Englishwoman and a reluctant philosopher, stepped from obscurity to publish a book whose title – A Discourse Concerning the Love of God – concealed the feminist gems within. For instance, she insisted, contrary to some philosophers and theologians of her day, that mothers were not corrupting forces but foundational to the pursuit of knowledge. Then in 1705 she entered the public sphere again with another work, more radical than the first, titled Occasional Thoughts in Reference to a Vertuous or Christian Life, in which she argued that women should contribute to all intellectual subjects: ‘I see no Reason why it should not be thought that all Science lyes as open to a Lady as to a Man.’

Masham was also close to the Enlightenment philosopher John Locke. Their friendship endured for almost 20 years. It was an intellectual, personal and at times romantic exchange that began before her marriage and endured after Locke moved into her home with her husband and children. No need to write letters when you can share ideas near the fire in the evenings. This was a period of great philosophical flourishing for Masham, during which she wrote her two and only books.

More here.