Wollstonecraft, Mary

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) was an English author and early advocate of women’s rights.

Born — Spitalfields, London, England
Died (aged 38) — Somers Town, London, England

Her work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) is one of earliest works which argues women have the right to make full participation in society.

After two ill-fated affairs, with Henry Fuseli and Gilbert Imlay (by whom she had a daughter, Fanny Imlay), Wollstonecraft married the philosopher William Godwin, one of the forefathers of the anarchist movement. Wollstonecraft died young and left behind several unfinished manuscripts. She died eleven days after giving birth to her second daughter, Mary Shelley, who would become an accomplished writer and author of Frankenstein.

Mary Wollstonecraft
“The divine right of husbands, like the divine right of kings, may, it is hoped, in this enlightened age, be contested without danger.”

Some of the insightful comments Mary made include:

I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.

No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.

Taught from infancy that beauty is woman’s sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.

Virtue can only flourish among equals.

It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world.

Men and women must be educated, in a great degree, by the opinions and manners of the society they live in.

Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will quickly become good wives; – that is, if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers.

Mary Wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft
by John Opie (c. 1797)