Thursday, August 19, 2010

Edith Stein on the Intrinsic Value of Woman

This intrinsic value [of woman] consists chiefly in the ability:

1. To become a complete person oneself; i.e., a person all of whose faculties are developed and coexist in harmony;
2. To help others to become complete human beings;
3. In all contact with other persons, to respect the complete human being.

Certain maladies of modern culture such as the dehumanization of the person, fragmentation, and the one-sided development of certain faculties leading to the atrophy of others may be cured through recourse to the intrinsic value of woman.

Edith Stein, "The Significance of Woman's Intrinsic Value in National Life," Woman, Freda Mary Oben, tr., 2nd edition. ICS Publications (Washington, D.C.: 1996) p. 39. This is from the typed summary of a talk that Stein gave at the 15th convention of the Bavarian Catholic Women Teachers in 1928. The idea that womanhood or femininity plays an essential role in the development of complete personhood is a fairly important one in Stein's version of feminism; it occurs in different guises in a number of places. The claim would be very controversial today because of a widespread (but not universal) skepticism about the notion of womanhood or femininity.

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