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This is a guest post by Heliconia. Heliconia is a Canadian graduate student in evolutionary biology, an unabashed nerd, and a disliker of labels.
Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, was a 17th-Century British writer and natural philosopher. When the mere act of writing under one’s own name was considered unseemly for a woman, she published plays, essays, and poems aplenty that critiqued the philosophies of Aristotle, Hobbes, and Descartes. Her prose work “The portrait of a new world, called the Blazing World” is one of the earliest examples of what might be called science fiction.
She objected to the lack of education for women at the time and the consequent assumption that they could be neither authors nor philosophers. In fact, she used writing as a means of escaping the limitations placed on women’s role in society. Of inventing “The Blazing World”, she said, “[T]hough I have neither Power, Time nor Occasion, to be a great Conqueror, like Alexander, or Cesar; yet, rather than not be Mistress of a World, since Fortune and the Fates would give me none, I have made One of my own.”
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