Hegel aside, philosophy was never the easy path for Sedgwick. As a graduate student in UChicago’s Department of Philosophy, she was one of only two women in her cohort—the other dropped out after the first year—and there were no female faculty members. (Today, four of the deparment’s 20 tenure-track faculty members are women.)
Sedgwick credits her adviser, the late Manley Thompson, AB’38, AM’38, PhD’42, an authority on Kant, for taking her seriously in a way many other faculty didn’t. “It’s not as if they were bad guys,” she explains. “In their experience, women were daughters, mothers, lovers. They weren’t philosophers.”
Although feminist philosophy isn’t an area she works in directly (“Kant and Hegel were both big misogynists, just as all philosophers were,” she says), she welcomes its investigations. “One really great thing about philosophy,” Sedgwick says, “is that if it is working correctly, it should wean all of us of the idea that anything is simple.”[see here]
I have long admired Prof. Sedgwick from a distance; a former President of the Central APA, she is one of the leading scholars of Kant and his relationship to what is called German idealism. Her work exhibits the virtues of clarity, precision, and profundity. She is featured in the Alumni magazine of The University of Chicago, and I was moved by reading of her personal struggles in the department. Sadly, Manley Thompson had passed away by the time I became a graduate student at Chicago, but a (dwindling) number of the peers that could not really see women as philosophers were still around. Given their exacting standards, and adherence to truth and justice, this dissonance revealed itself only obliquely and unexpectedly to somebody (like me), who was not on the look out for it and not much affected personally by it.
Even so, I was dismayed by Sedgwick's claim that "all philosophers were" big "misogynists." Now, I recognize that this is an interview and that if we treat Sedgwick's remark as a statistical generalization it is probably broadly true. But it really needs emphasizing that in the centuries before Kant and Hegel, there were female and male philosophers who, in their declared philosophies, were anti-misogynists.* Problem is if I list their names -- Cavendish, De Gournay (recall here and here), Van Schuurman, Mandeville, Poulain de la Barre, De Grouchy, Condorcet, Millar, and Wollstonecraft (recall here and here), as well as, perhaps, Diderot and D'Holbach -- they are mostly unfamiliar or not read as philosophers because Kant and Hegel -- and the historiographers they inspired -- chose not to take them seriously qua philosophy. [For an excellent volume on the women, see here.]
This is not just a matter of historical justice.