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Women participated in virtually every aspect of the French Revolution, but their participation almost always proved controversial. Women's status in the family, society, and politics had long been a subject of polemics. In the eighteenth century, those who favored improving the status of women insisted primarily on women's right to an education (rather than on the right to vote, for instance, which few men enjoyed). The writers of the Enlightenment most often took a traditional stance on "the women question"; they viewed women as biologically and therefore socially different from men, destined to play domestic roles inside the family rather than public, political ones. Among the many writers of the Enlightenment, Jean-Jacques Rousseau published the most influential works on the subject of women's role in society. In his book Emile, he described his vision of an ideal education for women. Women should take an active role in the family, Rousseau insisted, by breast-feeding and educating their children, but they should not venture to take active positions outside the home. Rousseau's writings on education electrified his audience, both male and female. He advocated greater independence and autonomy for male children and emphasized the importance of mothers in bringing up children. But many women objected to his insistence that women did not need serious intellectual preparation for life. Some women took their pleas for education into the press.
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