Front Page Titles (by Subject) James Mill\'s Utilitarian Feminism - Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1981, vol. 4, No. 3
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James Mill's Utilitarian Feminism - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1981, vol. 4, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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James Mill's Utilitarian Feminism
“Utilitarianism, Feminism, and the Franchise: James Mill and His Critics.” History of Political Thought 1(Spring 1980):91–115.
The conventional view of the utilitarians' position of feminism runs as follows: In his Essay on Government, James Mill (1773–1836) asserted the rabidly anti-feminist argument that women should not be given the franchise. By contrast, Jeremy Bentham espouses a position more friendly to women. Next, John Stuart Mill's (1806–1873) enthusiastic pro-feminist stance was influenced by Bentham, as well as by Thomas Macaulay's critical review of James Mill's Essay on Government. This conventional picture, Ball argues, is almost completely in error.
It is true that James Mill's Essay on Government denies the franchise to women. Mill argues that since women's interests are likely to be identical to those of their husbands, they need not be given an independent vote. But, in his History of British India (1818), which he regarded as his chief work, Mill presented a very different view. In his History, the elder Mill measured the level of a society by the status of women. By that standard, India ranked low as a society because of the subjection of women. Mill seemed to overlook that this standard would call into question his views on women's franchise in his History.
It is also true that at some points Bentham favored the cause of women. Bentham criticized James Mill's identification of women's interests with those of their husbands. Sometimes Bentham even favored giving them at least the same legal rights as men. But in other writings he did not do so and justified limiting women's rights by alleging that their emotional nature would interfere with carrying out the requirements of the principle of utility. Ironically, some of Bentham's arguments urging caution on issues of women's rights commit what he elsewhere terms the anarchical fallacy.
Neither is it the case that John Stuart Mill was influenced by Macaulay's criticism of his father's Essay to take a pro-feminist position. Macaulay was unsympathetic to women's suffrage and, in his review, was preoccupied with attacking the principle of utility. John Stuart Mill was in fact much more influenced in his position on women by his father's History of British India and by the Appeal of the Irish utilitarian and radical, William Thompson.