Mary Wollstonecraft was a child of the French Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment. Born in 1759, she weathered a childhood with a tyrannical father, a bullied mother and five siblings to become a fiery feminist intellectual and writer. Her radical social arguments spelled out in the 1792 book A Vindication of the Rights of Women eventually became the main doctrine of the women’s movement.
She was just a century ahead of her time, and her views on the equality of women as well as her unconventional private life made her more infamous than famous. After a disastrous common law marriage, she went to live with philosopher William Godwin. They both considered marriage a form of tyranny, but nevertheless married when she became pregnant. Her daughter, Mary Godwin, was born on August 30, 1797. Eleven days later on September 10, the mother died.
Mary Godwin would eventually marry Percy Bysshe Shelley and become famous herself as the author of Frankenstein.
Mary Wollstonecraft’s reputation was further tarnished by William Godwin’s memoirs, which he published after her death, revealing intimate details of their lives, including her illegitimate children, love affairs and a suicide attempt. Today, however, she is considered one of the foremost feminist philosophers.
Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience.
If women be educated for dependence; that is, to act according to the will of another fallible being, and submit, right or wrong, to power, where are we to stop?
In fact, it is a farce to call any being virtuous whose virtues do not result from the exercise of its own reason.