Five Facts About Mary Wollstonecraft
Spurred on by International Women’s Day yesterday, this week’s blog post is about Mary Wollstonecraft. I am not sure how I reached my mid-twenties knowing almost nothing about this trailblazing woman. She was arguably one of the foremothers of European feminism, yet her name was strangely absent from my school/Sixth Form College education. She must have been mentioned during my BA in English Literature, but it wasn’t until my Masters that we actually studied her works.
To save you from the same embarrassing gap in knowledge, here are five facts about Mary Wollstonecraft:
- In 1792 she travelled to revolutionary France in support of the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity.
- The same year, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was published. This argued for social and educational equality for women and men, stating that a rational education would not only make women competent enough for many professions in the world of work, it would also make them better wives and mothers.
- While in Paris, Wollstonecraft met and had an affair with the American Gilbert Imlay. She gave birth to their daughter as an unmarried woman. After returning to England, she was abandoned by Imlay and twice attempted suicide.
- After this, she became part of an influential, radical group of writers and philosophers which included William Godwin, Thomas Paine, Thomas Holcraft and William Blake.
- In 1797, pregnant with his child, she married William Godwin. Sadly, she died eleven days after childbirth. Their daughter, Mary, went on to become Mary Shelly, author of Frankenstein, among other titles.
Although her reputation was in tatters after Godwin published his candid, honest biography, Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1798) she is today remembered for her radical life and ideals, as well as her writing.