Seen as one of the foremothers of modern day feminism, Mary Wollstonecraft set a precedent when she described the institution of marriage as being a type of legal prostitution. She went on to say in her book Vindication of the Rights of Woman that equal education for women was the only remedy for this grave injustice perpetrated against them, and education for women would actually strengthen the institution of marriage. Set as an argument for the betterment of womankind's deplorable situation in the late 1700s, Wollstonecraft's book is an influential and fascinating study of history, psychology, philosophy, and feminism.
Writing in an age when the call for the rights of man had brought revolution to America and France, Mary Wollstonecraft produced her own declaration of female independence in 1792. Passionate and forthright, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman attacked the prevailing view of docile, decorative femininity, and instead laid out the principles of emancipation: an equal education for girls and boys, an end to prejudice, and for women to become defined by their profession, not their partner. Mary Wollstonecraft's work was received with a mixture of admiration and outrage - Walpole called her 'a hyena in petticoats' - yet it established her as the mother of modern feminism.
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 - 97) was an educationalist and feminist writer. Part of the radical set that included Blake and Fuseli, her relationship with William Godwin and the birth of their child - Mary Shelley - outside of marraige caused great scandal after her death. Miriam Brody is a professor in the Writing Program at Ithaca College, New York. Her most recent writing on Mary Wollstonecraft appears in Feminist Interpretations of Mary Wollstonecraft (1996).
"We hear [Mary Wollstonecraft's] voice and trace her influence even now among the living."
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