MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT

Born in Spitalfields, London, in the family of a handkerchief weaver, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 – 1797) opened a school in Newington Green, a small village close to Hackney, and also joined a group known as Rational Dissenters, led by renowned scientist Joseph Priestly and others. It was in this period that she met Joseph Johnson, a publisher, who was impressed by Mary's ideas on education and commissioned her to write a book on the subject. In Thoughts on the Education of Girls, published in 1786, Mary attacked traditional teaching methods and suggested new topics to be studied by girls. Two years later Wollstonecraft helped Johnson to establish the journal Analytical Review. In 1789, when Edmund Burke wrote Reflections on the Revolution in France where he argued in favour of the inherited rights of the monarchy, it upset Wollstonecraft who wrote a pamphlet titled A Vindication of the Rights of Man, attacking what she thought was wrong with the contemporary society. This work brought her in contact with such eminent figures as Thomas Paine, John Cartwright, John Horne Tooke, William Godwin and William Blake. In 1791, Mary Wollstonecraft published her most important book, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, attacking the educational restrictions that kept women in a state of “ignorance and slavish dependence.” She was especially critical of a society that encouraged women to be “docile and attentive to their looks to the exclusion of all else.” Wollstonecraft described marriage as “legal prostitution” and added that women “may be convenient slaves, but slavery will have its constant effect, degrading the master and the abject dependent.” After having lived in France where she reached in June 1793, Mary soon returned to London where she married William Godwin in March 1797 and gave birth to her second daughter, Mary. Though the baby was healthy, the mother suffered blood poisoning which finally took her life. This very offspring eventually married poet Percy Brown Shelly and is known as the author of novel Frankenstein (1818).

MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT