This is a very interesting and (sadly) still relevant book/essay on the position of women in society. What's interesting about it is that it goes to the core of the dichotomy: why are men and women in the positions they're in nowadays (or well, in 1869)? While evolutionary psychology still gains popularity and pseudo-scientific ideas nestle in the thoughts on gender of many ("(wo)men are simply more suited for this kind of work, because back in the days, when we still lived in caves...") and threatens to bring development in this area to a screeching halt, Mill's ideas remain refreshing.
Mill (and his wife)'s crystal clear: society as we know it, gender roles as we know it, has initially been built on an artificial ideas, not on natural predispositions.
"What is now called the nature of women is an eminently artificial thing — the result of forced repression in some directions, unnatural stimulation in others (...) in the case of women, a hot-house and stove cultivation has always been carried on of some of the capabilities of their nature, for the benefit and pleasure of their masters. Then, because certain products of the general vital force sprout luxuriantly and reach a great development in this heated atmosphere and under this active nurture and watering, while other shoots from the same root, which are left outside in the wintry air, with ice purposely heaped all round them, have a stunted growth, and some are burnt off with fire and disappear; men, with that inability to recognize their own work which distinguishes the unanalytic mind, indolently believe that the tree grows of itself in the way they have made it grow, and that it would die if one half of it were not kept in a vapour bath and the other half in the snow."
A critic one could have is that Mill could be too
critical of the male sex and is generalising in his own turn. It also doesn't leave much room for those who aren't interested in becoming "intellectually stimulating spouses".
Nevertheless, considering the age of this essay and the immense value of its core argument, I think it deserves all the credit it's gotten (and a bit more... less than 800 ratings on GoodReads :/ )