These thinkers explored and developed ideas about the rights of people because they are people and because these rights are part of the natural order; they explored why we have governments and what are their duties and limits; they challenged the "divine right" of royalty and hereditary power. They explored religion and churches — their duties and limits. They developed the idea of separating governments and churches so each could best fulfill its responsibilities. Some were devout believers others agnostic. The three women were forced by the sexism of that time into the background but had critical influence. Mary Wollstonecraft, the mother of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, wrote many pieces, including on women's sexuality and against marriage as tyranny. Her major book continues available: Vindication of the Rights of Women and the Wrongs of Women and is available on-line. She inspired and taught the suffragette movement.
The first books printed in the colonies were by these writers! They were in the libraries of America's founders, who read them in the original languages! They were read by many people. Explore the life and writings of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, Rousseau, and others. These were the architects for the governments our founders developed and crafted first in Rhode Island, then other colonies, then the states, and the federal Constitution. Their thinking inspired Latin American revolutionaries, and continues to stir creative problem solving across societies.
“…new philosophers began asking new questions.…How do thoughts about the one true God transform themselves into thoughts about killing to do his work? Why are certain forms of government adept at controlling such passions, while others seem to breed them? Could there be a deep connections between religious and political violence?…” Mark Lilla in his The Stillborn God, page 297; pages 70–103 is an insightful recent summary of these thinkers, their developing views, and their current influence. The paper back edition has an afterword in which he responds to questions about his book and thoughts. Insightful comparison in the Enlightenment of a dominator society to a partnership society and their effects on people and government are explored in Riane Eisler's The Chalice and the Blade.