Edith Stein was one of those mindbogglingly brilliant women born before the Second World War who was impeded in her career first by being female and second by being Jewish. ("Jewish" was considered an ethnic group or racial type, so converting to Christianity did not make a Jew not-Jewish in the eyes of wider society.) Stein was keenly interested in the "Woman Question" and her writings were very influential to the thought of a certain Karol Wojtyła and so, in time, to a papal encyclical called Mulieris Dignitatem.
I have often thought about readers who write to me saying that they long to "give themselves to a man" and thus find Single life an incredible burden and premarital sex a terrible temptation. (By the way, I pray for all my readers every Sunday at the Elevation of the Chalice.) So I was electrified when I read this passage in Stein's "The Ethos of Women's Professions":
It is the deepest desire of a woman’s heart to surrender itself lovingly to another, to be wholly his and to possess him wholly. This is at the root of her tendency towards the personal and the whole, which seems to us the specifically feminine characteristic. Where this total surrender is made to human being, it is a perverted self-surrender that enslaves her, and implies at the same time an unjustified demand which no human being can fulfil. Only God can receive the complete surrender of a person and in such a way that she will not lose, but gain her soul. And only God can give Himself to a human being in such a way that He will fulfil its whole being while losing nothing of His own. Hence the total surrender which is the principle of the religious life, is at the same time the only possible adequate fulfilment of women’s desire.
…What practical consquence follows from this? It certainly does not follow that all women who would fulfil their vocation should not become nuns. But it does follow that the fallen and perverted feminine nature [NB Stein has earlier explained the effects of the fall on both the feminine and masculine natures] can be restored to its purity and led to the heights of the vocational ethos such as the pure feminine nature represents, only if it is totally surrendered to God. Whether she lives as a mother in her home, in the limelight of public life or behind the silent walls of a convent, she must everywhere be a ‘handmaid of the Lord’, as the Mother of God had been in all the circumstances of her life, whether she was living as a virgin in the sacred precincts of the Temple, silently kept house at Bethlehem and Nazareth or guided the apostles and the first Christian community after the death of her Son. If every woman were an image of the Mother of God, a spouse of Christ and an apostle of the divine Heart, she woul fulfil her feminine vocation no matter in what circumstances she lived and what her external activities might be.