Meedogenloos glimlachen op weg naar economisch succes: Advies uit de 18de eeuw voor de (zaken)vrouw van vandaag

Translated title of the contribution: Smile Relentlessly on Your Way to Economic Success:: 18th Century Advice for Today's Business Woman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Expressions of anger get in the way of a woman’s economic success: so both contemporary self-help bestsellers and 18th Century conduct manuals tell us. As early as 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft – proto-feminist and prototypical “angry woman” – describes how commercial society does not leave any room for female frustration and anger. For women to “better their condition” (to use the words of
famed economist Adam Smith), they need to appear gentle and accommodating.
This article uses Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman to analyze 21 st Century corporate self-help literature. I argue that the way in which this 21 st Century genre treats of female anger can be traced back to 18th Century conduct literature and its feminine ideal of the proper lady. What is more, the domestic middle class woman’s angelic nature was a requirement for the proper functioning of the economic system as Adam Smith described it. The argument presented here raises questions about the extent to which today’s late capitalist commercial society is bound up with (and perhaps even predicated on) centuries-old notions of “femininity”.
Translated title of the contributionSmile Relentlessly on Your Way to Economic Success:: 18th Century Advice for Today's Business Woman
Original languageDutch
Pages (from-to)57-74
Number of pages18
JournalEthiek & Maatschappij
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Angry women
  • Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Self-help
  • Business women
  • Conduct literature


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