Mary Wollstonecraft: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

(1792)

Her personal experiences with her controlling father, work as a teacher and private tutor, and familiarity with the philosophical and political issues of her day all spurred Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797) to take an interest in gender roles. She read or was acquainted with leading Enlightenment theorists such as Thomas Paine, John Jacques Rousseau, William Wordsworth, and William Godwin, the latter of whom she married. Much political discussion centered on the rights of man and the importance of reason in the development of human character, which she felt contrasted sharply with prevailing philosophies of women's education and their social reality. She advocated the extension of rights and reason to women in the 1792 book-length treatise entitled A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, later widely regarded as one of the first feminist writings. Publication was met with both acclaim and hostility.

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Mary Wollstonecraft (Library of Congress)

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