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A Vindication of the Rights of Woman PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
Author: Mary Wollstonecraft
Publisher: Published October 28th 2004 by Penguin Classics (first published 1792)
ISBN: 9780141441252
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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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 educa 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.

30 review for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bookdragon Sean

    Wollstonecraft is not passionate; she does not offer any inspiring words or flowery language. Wollstonecraft writes with no embellishment or artistry; yet, her words are commanding and exceedingly persuasive because what she does have is cold, hard, logic. And she knows it. “My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone.” She ref Wollstonecraft is not passionate; she does not offer any inspiring words or flowery language. Wollstonecraft writes with no embellishment or artistry; yet, her words are commanding and exceedingly persuasive because what she does have is cold, hard, logic. And she knows it. “My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone.” She refused to appeal to the sensibilities and imaginations of her readers. Instead she wished to display her rational intellect, an intellect free of flights of fancy and one that had the ability to access the situation in all its reality. She argued that women, in their current state, had no means of proving their worth. She believed that women were physically inferior to men, but in terms of intellect they were equal and that they so desperately needed a noble, edifying, pursuit in which to show this. Wollstonecraft offers many compelling arguments in here, though for me her most logical pertains to human progress; she argues that without education it will simply stop: a very true point. Humanity needs to continue to develop, but this is impossible if only half of humanity is educated. She argues that women cannot teach their children if they in turn are not educated. How can she impart any wisdom or teach any sense of patriotism if she has not learnt to love mankind? Wollstonecraft believed that the key to overturning sexism began and ended with education. “Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience.” Due to the lack of education women recieved, Wollstonecraft suggests that they have been rendered wretched and weak. They are merely classified as females rather than members of mankind. She wants to see women take on manly qualities, well, traits associated with manhood. She wanted to break the oppressive gender boundaries that limited the faculty of her sex. As such, she was satirised by many novelists and critics for being manly herself. The ironic thing is that such a label only serves to achieve what she is arguing for. She wanted women to be many, to be equal to men. However, Wollstonecraft was at times very condescending towards women. Whilst she does not blame them for their predicament, that blame lays at the door of the patriarchy and men in general, she does chastise them for not trying to break through their shackles. Though what she fails to recognise is that for many women they do not have the benefit of looking beyond earning enough money to get through the week and looking after their families. Wollstonecraft is distinctively middle-class, and as such, at times, she lacks the ability to empathise with the reality of the situation some women will find themselves in. She also undervalues the lessons and teachings uneducated people can still pass on to their children, the value of hard work and honesty for example. Such minor issues with her writing by no means downplay the power and logic behind her arguments, arguments that would go on to inspire the next generation of writers (including her daughter and her daughter’s husband, no doubt.) I also noticed some very particular phrasing that was later mirrored almost verbatim in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Wollstonecraft’s ideas were carried further by a medium she deplored, the novel. She really underestimated its power as a learning device. Wollstonecraft is certainly a powerful literary figure to be admired, and, this, as a seminal work in the development of feminism is, certainly, a work of undying success and potency.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra Lê

    OH MY GOD , this uncoventional, feminist woman is mother of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, who was one of my favorite author only after Rowling, Wilde, Plath...etc.? SHELLEY, you never tell me how cool your mother was!!! . I thought we were best friends.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    Idly I wondered if to "kiss the rod" in the context of women's behaviour after being chastised by her husband was meant to be a double entendre - but probably not as she is high minded, but luckily I made my idle observation in a dejected off- hand way because later she says Respect for man, as man, is the foundation of every noble sentiment. How much more modest is the libertine who obeys the call of appetite or fancy than the lewd joker who sets the table in a roar! (p232), so shame on you if Idly I wondered if to "kiss the rod" in the context of women's behaviour after being chastised by her husband was meant to be a double entendre - but probably not as she is high minded, but luckily I made my idle observation in a dejected off- hand way because later she says Respect for man, as man, is the foundation of every noble sentiment. How much more modest is the libertine who obeys the call of appetite or fancy than the lewd joker who sets the table in a roar! (p232), so shame on you if you were tempted to smile at the thought of rod kissing. I did allow myself to be intimidated in to putting off reading this book which has been languishing on the shelf since last year despite reading her impressively passionate Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark in part by the terrifying title - vindication, rights, woman. All suggestive of great earnestness and grappling with fundamental issues, small wonder, I plead, that I allowed myself to be distracted by more lascivious and light hearted reading. Though plainly Mary W. is also an absolutely sweet person and if one was, through odd circumstances, transported back in time to 1790s London one would be sure to drag her in off the street from the rain , push her into an armchair by the fire, give her tea (view spoiler)[ only though with sugar not made by slave labour (hide spoiler)] , a slab of fruit cake and a reviving glass of Marsala or Maderia wine. Obviously I am disabled in various ways in reviewing Wollstonecraft, on account of sex and age (view spoiler)[ one needs ideally to be a child of the 1770s or 1760s to be at one with its flow (hide spoiler)] and expectation. The last maybe is the most difficult for the idea of "Feminism" will hang over the reader, but she is Wollstoncraftian, and more besides, she is Mary (view spoiler)[ a woman with her own distinct experiences and obsessions(view spoiler)[ inescapably breast-feeding which leaks increasingly into the latter part of the text (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] , not the several hundred following years of thought, experience and expectation that come after her. From fairly early on she seemed to me to be standing at a cultural crossroads, in what she writes one can see the currents which will flow off in some odd directions, her instance on the cultivation of virtue and sports seems to prefigure Muscular Christianity and Jolly Hockey sticks, her views on the centrality of the middle class - the upper class too feminised and Frenchified - the lower obviously too low coupled with (the deep roots of Brexit) her vehement ( & more than slightly surprising considering her politics) anti-continental prejudices is pure Jane Eyre, and yet the broader context of this work is her support for the declaration of the rights of man in revolutionary Paris. In that anti-continental feeling and her horror of Popery (view spoiler)[ I do wonder quite why anti-catholic feeling was so strong, did people seriously believe that given half a chance papists would be slitting the throats of all the protestants of a night? The expression of feeling comes across as that extreme and strongly held (hide spoiler)] , taking me back twenty years to hearing the late Iain Paisley resplendent in his orange sash on television, she drives me like a steady drummer back towards the pages of Linda Colley's Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 Her desire for woman to assert herself through virtue and through virtue and motherhood to assume or earn a familial and social centrality seems to prefigure The Angel in the House and a rather primly respectable Victorianism. Curiously alongside her delight in breast-feeding mothers full of joy watching their children grow to sensible British adulthood is a horror of sex surprising to find in a mother of two (view spoiler)[ in a mother of one fair enough, allowance can be made for innocent experimentation, but with two plainly she would have known what was involved (hide spoiler)] she hoists the flag early of no sex please, we're British reminding me of a line in George Mike's How to be an alien to the effect of that people on the continental mainland have sex-lives, while in Britain there are hot water bottles. While I haven't spent a day with binoculars trained on the windows of neighbouring houses I'm dubious that people are, or were, so busily engaged in copulation as to cause mass miscarriages and barrenness in women, I imagine her strong distaste for intimacy between husband and wife and celebration of chastity (view spoiler)[ rather confusingly sitting alongside her celebration of motherhood (hide spoiler)] reflects her experience of her parent's married life. While on the one hand it is quite fun to see so sensible a woman being silly, on the other hand in her vision of men and women as sexual beings and the social value of repression and sublimation one can see her as thinking along similar lines to Freud (view spoiler)[ though earlier and with less cocaine, and with no sense of the potential damage involved in repression, here we're still in the days when repression was good for you, character building no doubt (hide spoiler)] . At its root it is quite a powerful vision of human nature and society. In addition to being a forerunner of Mary Whitehouse, some other elements remain contemporary, her picture of women only valued for their transient youthful beauty could with small changes to her eighteenth century habits of expression could have come straight from a newspaper column about the disappearance of women of a certain age (view spoiler)[ I won't say which on account of it being impolite to publicly discuss a woman's age (hide spoiler)] from television screens. More darkly I felt her picture of emancipated woman not as a person at ease but ideally forever on guard and dedicated to serious thinking who forcefully rejects with outrage all fripperies as abominations devoting herself to her breast-fed children was also modern - the great pillar of shoulds and social requirements towering over the small naked figure of the actual individual trying to live their lives as best they can. And if you don't want to be, or can't be, a breast- feeding mother then Mary Wollstonecraft is not going to be forgiving. Perhaps dark also in her criticism of female behaviour that doesn't come up to her high minded ideals. The rights and wrongs of woman's behaviour and dress are never to be a private matter it seems, but always an issue of burning public interest. Actually as a man reading a book like this one is enormously reassured because in her account its all about the men. Man oppresses woman, only man has the potential to emancipate (view spoiler)[ the explicit comparison to slavery is made several times, both in terms of legal status and in the lingering mental impact (hide spoiler)] woman, woman cannot free herself - which may I suppose be simply the fairly sober reality of woman's lack of legal status in eighteenth century Britain, man is at the centre anyhow. Wollstonecraft's portrayal is dialectical, man and woman are in a dynamic relationship but one based on (male) false consciousness - man thinks he is doing himself a favour by raising and limiting woman to simply be a voluptuous sexual companion but by doing so he deprives himself of a sturdy and sensible mother to his children, who won't be out all night gambling and boozing or tyrannising the household due to her petty ignorances or hanging about around astrologers. If in her sensible and reasonable views on the monarchy, British system of government, and tax policy, she remains sadly considerably ahead of our times, in other ways radicalism withheld is an important theme of her work. Liberation is for the middle class woman, and her liberation requires the continued drudgery of lower class woman (view spoiler)[ still I suppose a live issue (hide spoiler)] . Still one of the many problems in opening your trap and allowing words to tumble out, or in putting pen to paper is that others can see potentials and possibilities that you yourself (view spoiler)[ not meaning you of course honoured Goodreader (hide spoiler)] are blind to. And in her message of emancipation of woman as good for man we can see the potential that the liberation of the lower classes must logically be equally good for all society, the same arguments for the release of talent and the strengthening of the individual must hold. In this way the potential of Wollstonecraft's work is bigger and more impressive than her written argument. Her sense of the constriction of women's lives primarily as a phenomenon of mentalité is particularly powerful, merely changing laws is insufficient and silly, it is our interior culture which requires Reformation. This in the way of some pre-modern writing is a little unstructured and so under powered as a result she looses her self early on up a dead end with a discussion of man's natural dominance over woman as a result of strength, as though among men strength ever played a role in dominance - when was the undisputed champion boxer Pontif Maximus, when the faster runner chief Judge or mightiest weight lifter King? Softer skills of persuasion and cunning or more vaguely of charisma (view spoiler)[ often indicated by being the abandoned child of an unmarried teen-aged mother (hide spoiler)] are more typical of our leaders than muscles. I feel I've rather run around here and I don't think any amount of tea will get the review properly afloat again. In terms of the argument, the Rights of Man, and the ink fought wars fought in the British press over the rights and woeful wrongs of the French Revolution are unspoken in the background. Indeed this book is one soldier in that battle. Nor is Wollenstonecraft ever explicit about what the Rights of Woman are, though she is explicit that this is about Middle-class women, not all women. Woman is enslaved and educated into a limited culture of dependence and sensuality, the answer to her mind is universal primary mixed sex education (view spoiler)[ with social segregation from the age of nine with trade schools for lower class children (hide spoiler)] , well after a hundred odd years of that I'd say in relation to her hope in the trans-formative power of education that optimists are terribly nice people, but I'm glad I'm not one of them. Her view is slightly curious in that early on she sees the inferior status of woman as a social phenomena, perpetuated through social structures, nor does she see any potential conflict between child rearing and middle-class women having professional careers - but then she assumes a dependant servant class. Any review is going to be slightly unfair in that she originally envisioned her polemic as a multi volume work, typically enough maybe this was the only part which was completed, had she written her heart out, no doubt she'd have thrown up other issues and answers. taught only to please, women are always on the watch to please, and with true heroic ardour endeavour to gain hearts merely to resign or spurn them when the victory is decided and conspicuous (p147) For such women who seek to risk the path of self-emancipation Wollstonecraft recommends (view spoiler)[alongside mother hood and breast-feeding(view spoiler)[ and really her pictures of ruddy chubby children, and stalwart mothers are endearing (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] gardening, natural philosophy, and literature - though biographies in preference to romances(view spoiler)[There is a long section criticising books and writers she doesn't approve of for their constricting views of woman -first and foremost Rousseau (view spoiler)[ I can't say I'm convinced that England was awash in the 1790s with the influence of Rousseau, the whole section felt like a battle with the pygmies (view spoiler)[ with all due respects to the pygmies who I know did their best against the Cranes (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] . She doesn't like that private vices might be public virtues, for her virtue seeds virtue. So her's is an austere vision, with rights come duties, most demandingly towards oneself, rarely can a vision of freedom have entailed so much work, the playful rococo gives way to sharp and simple lines, of profound moral seriousness & weight.

  4. 4 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    3.5-4★ “. . . as blind obedience is ever sought for by power, tyrants and sensualists are in the right when they endeavour to keep women in the dark, because the former only want slaves, and the latter a play-thing.” I saw reference several times to Mary Wollstonecraft around International Women’s Day recently and thought I should find this book. I read and enjoyed about a third of it, but I eventually got bogged down in the repletition and the language. The English literary style of the late 1700 3.5-4★ “. . . as blind obedience is ever sought for by power, tyrants and sensualists are in the right when they endeavour to keep women in the dark, because the former only want slaves, and the latter a play-thing.” I saw reference several times to Mary Wollstonecraft around International Women’s Day recently and thought I should find this book. I read and enjoyed about a third of it, but I eventually got bogged down in the repletition and the language. The English literary style of the late 1700s is not easily skimmed, and I really just wanted a sense of her propositions, not chapter and verse. I know I didn't read it all, but I read enough to recognise its importance and her passion, for which I give her four stars. She certainly lets the fellows have it with both barrels! She frequently says that what might pass for an acceptable lifestyle in the seraglio (harem) is hardly an appropriate goal for young women. She rails against the injustice of inequality of power. The power of the rich over the poor, men over women, and men over soldiers who go straight into the military with no other education. She hopes women won’t take offense at her appealing to their good sense and seeming to overlook their feminine attractions. “My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their FASCINATING graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone.” If that’s all women ever learn – how to be simpering coquettes, then no wonder men tire of them eventually when “they are taken out of their sphere of duties, and made ridiculous and useless when the short lived bloom of beauty is over*. . . (*Footnote. A lively writer, I cannot recollect his name, asks what business women turned of forty have to do in the world.)” Anyone here over 40? You might as well give it up now. It’s not just women she’s fighting for, though that was revolutionary enough. She was after equality generally. She’s not happy with royalty or with lords and ladies (the silly ones who spend all day on their fading looks). “. . . the more equality there is established among men, the more virtue and happiness will reign in society. . . After attacking the sacred majesty of kings, I shall scarcely excite surprise, by adding my firm persuasion, that every profession, in which great subordination of rank constitutes its power, is highly injurious to morality.” Women were to be uneducated (except in household duties), protected and innocent. “Children, I grant, should be innocent; but when the epithet is applied to men, or women, it is but a civil term for weakness.” Well said, Mary. Forewarned is forearmed. Turn the light on and wake women up. “Gentleness, docility, and a spaniel-like affection are, on this ground, consistently recommended as the cardinal virtues of the sex; and, disregarding the arbitrary economy of nature, one writer has declared that it is masculine for a woman to be melancholy. She was created to be the toy of man, his rattle, and it must jingle in his ears, whenever, dismissing reason, he chooses to be amused.” Toy, my foot! And she goes on about both men and women being physically fit and active instead of sitting around these days (not enough battles???), and that’s about where I left her. She died not long after giving birth to her daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of Frankenstein and wife of famous poet many of us read in school, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Quite a family! Her work is available for free now online. http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3420

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine

    HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY TO EVERYBODY! "Make them free, and they will quickly become wise and virtuous, as men become more so; for the improvement must be mutual, or the injustice which one half of the human race are obliged to submit to, retorting on their oppressors, the virtue of man will be worm-eaten by the insect whom he keeps under his feet." Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) Mary Wollstonecraft by John Opie (c. 1797)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Yann

    Ce livre est un pamphlet politique britannique paru en 1792, en réaction aux débats de l'Assemblée Constituante en France quant à l'établissement de l'instruction publique, plus particulièrement un rapport de Talleyrand(view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)] de l'année précédente invitant à écarter les femmes à l'accès aux fonctions publiques. Par là on néglige de les instruire, puisque cela serait parfaitement inutile et dispendieux. Mary Wollstonecraft(view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)] s'est emparé de ce Ce livre est un pamphlet politique britannique paru en 1792, en réaction aux débats de l'Assemblée Constituante en France quant à l'établissement de l'instruction publique, plus particulièrement un rapport de Talleyrand(view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)] de l'année précédente invitant à écarter les femmes à l'accès aux fonctions publiques. Par là on néglige de les instruire, puisque cela serait parfaitement inutile et dispendieux. Mary Wollstonecraft(view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)] s'est emparé de cette question pour faire un vibrant plaidoyer: les femmes de doivent pas être écartées par principe des places et des responsabilités, et elles ont autant vocation à développer leurs capacités pour pouvoir se rendre utile aux autres, et par là trouver le bonheur et l'estime de soi. Pour appuyer son opinion, elle esquisse un tableau sous les couleurs les plus noires, volontairement outré: si les femmes sont décrétées inutiles aux fonctions les plus hautes, et qu'on les laisse dans l'ignorance, que leur reste-t-il sinon vivre sous la dépendance des hommes, soit comme des êtres craintifs et avilis, à qui il ne reste que la tromperie, la ruse, la duplicité et la perfidie pour pouvoir agir, soit sous le joug d'une obéissance passive et obscure, payée de mépris et de déréliction? Dans tous les cas, l'espèce humaine dégénère sous un commerce délétère d'amabilités fausses, et de rapports viciés et corrompus. Comme Alceste à Célimène, elle pourrait s'écrier: Plus on aime quelqu’un, moins il faut qu’on le flatte ; À ne rien pardonner le pur amour éclate ; Et je bannirais, moi, tous ces lâches amants Que je verrais soumis à tous mes sentiments, Et dont, à tous propos, les molles complaisances Donneraient de l'encens à mes extravagances. Et à qui viendrait lui reprocher des paroles excessives: Mais ce flegme, Monsieur, qui raisonnez si bien, Ce flegme pourra-t-il ne s’échauffer de rien ? Ses arguments s'appuient sur une psychologie héritée de la philosophie classique grecque. Il s'agit de fustiger l'emprise des sens sur l'esprit, la raison devant avoir le dessus, et ne pas se laisser dominer par le plaisir. Le dérèglement des libertins, esclaves de leurs passions, ne mène qu'à une illusion de bien qui n'est que le passager empire que l'on gagne sur une victime, et qui ne dépend pas de nous, tandis que le vrai sage se domine lui-même et ne fait pas dépendre son bonheur d'autrui. De nombreuses références sont faites à la vie éternelle, à la liberté de l'âme par rapport au dictament fatidique de la matière. Vainly then do they beat and foam, restrained by the power that struggling planets in their orbits, matter yields to the great governing Spirit. But an immortal soul, not restrained by mechanical laws and struggling to free itself from the shackles of matter, contributes to, instead of disturbing, the order of creation, when, co-operating with the Father of spirits, it tries to govern itself by the invariable rule. On pourrait trouver à redire sur cette curieuse métaphysique, mais ici, il s'agit surtout de morale: il faut inspirer à la femme l'estime de soi fondé sur des raisons solides, l'orgueil de la vertu, le courage persévérant, et la haine de la résignation. C'est ce que à quoi vise cette doctrine de la liberté. Tout ça est très stoïcien, mais c'est aussi présent de manière diffuse dans la culture religieuse et politique. On pourrait situer Mary dans une certaine tradition. Depuis les Évangiles qui affirment que il n'y a plus ni homme ni femme (Épitre aux Galates 3,28); en passant par des auteurs de la renaissance comme Luis Vives qui fait un vibrant défenseur de l'éducation des femmes dans son Education de la femme chrétienne et ses Devoirs du mari; par un auteur comme Comenius qui propose dans sa Grande Didactique (1632) de tout enseigner à tous. Les matérialistes français des lumières reprennent cette généreuse idée, comme le baron d'Holbach dans son Ethocratie. On retrouve encore pendant la révolution un Condorcet qui défend l'instruction des filles dans ses Cinq mémoires sur l'instruction publique. Il y en a sûrement d'autres mais je me limite à ceux que je connais. En bref, c'est un livre qui respire la vertu et le bon sens, même si, comme elle l'a reconnu-elle même, il aurait pu être mieux organisé si les circonstances l'avaient permis. Mais quelle différence avec les impatientants sophismes de Mme de Genlis, sa contemporaine! Malheureusement, les choses n'ont pas l'air d'être allé dans son sens, puisqu'il y a même eu un Projet d'une loi portant défense d'apprendre à lire aux femmes en 1801. J'ai maintenant envie de mieux connaitre ce sympathique auteur, car malheureusement, cette édition anglaise qui a pour symbole un manchot n'est doté ni d'introduction, ni d'appareil critique.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    As convenient as it can sometimes be, a disadvantage of reading from anthologies is that one can graduate from college with the vague notion that one has read a work in its entirety, only to discover later that in fact one has read only a page and a half of it in a long-forgotten Eighteenth-Century British Literature class. Which, as you may have guessed, is exactly what happened to me with Mary Wollstonecraft's seminal 1792 treatise A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. I'm happy to have rectif As convenient as it can sometimes be, a disadvantage of reading from anthologies is that one can graduate from college with the vague notion that one has read a work in its entirety, only to discover later that in fact one has read only a page and a half of it in a long-forgotten Eighteenth-Century British Literature class. Which, as you may have guessed, is exactly what happened to me with Mary Wollstonecraft's seminal 1792 treatise A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. I'm happy to have rectified my mistake at last and read Vindication from cover to cover. Unsurprisingly, Wollstonecraft's arguments assume a significant degree more complexity and idiosyncrasy on what I had, until recently, been thinking of as my "second time through." And in fact, as much as she would probably have disapproved of the comment, it was Wollstonecraft's own character that particularly appealed to me throughout this reading. I agreed with her on some points and disagreed with her on others, but throughout I enjoyed her forthrightness, her willingness, to use a modern phrase, to call bullshit on all the male arguments used to claim that women's natural state is one of gentle, slavish devotion, and that women should not be allowed physical or mental exertion. In her impatience with sickly-sweet yet fundamentally condescending verbiage about the "angelic innocence" of women, and with male writers' self-serving insistence that women are formed for the sole purpose of pleasing men, I spied a kindred spirit and was cheering (and sometimes, out of recognition) chuckling along with her outrage. I love how, for example, halfway through a passage quoted from Rousseau on his proposed method of educating women, she can't stand to wait until the end to comment and appends a footnote reading only, "What nonsense!" Neither is she afraid of the exclamation point: "Without knowledge there can be no morality!" she exclaims, and "Ignorance is a frail base for virtue!" I felt throughout, however, that she earned those exclamation points: these are infuriatingly simple and logical conclusions that are nonetheless STILL often disregarded when we educate girls to be sexy rather than smart, charming and flighty rather than honest and self-respecting. I particularly object to the lover-like phrases of pumped up passion, which are every where interspersed [in Fordyce's sermons]. If women be ever allowed to walk without leading-strings, why must they be cajoled into virtue by artful flattery and sexual compliments? Speak to them the language of truth and soberness, and away with the lullaby strains of condescending endearment! Let them be taught to respect themselves as rational creatures, and not led to have a passion for their own insipid persons. It moves my gall to hear a preacher descanting on dress and needle-work; and still more, to hear him address the British fair, the fairest of the fair, as if they had only feelings. I'm reminded of the men who yell at me as I walk down the street lost in thought: "You'd be prettier if you smiled!" As if being eye candy for random men is somehow supposed to be my top priority. Oh sorry! I forgot to think about PLEASING STRANGE MEN while I was cogitating on existential literature! And again: To carry the remark still further, if fear in girls, instead of being cherished, perhaps, created, were treated in the same manner as cowardice in boys, we should quickly see women with more dignified aspects. It is true, they could not then with equal propriety be termed the sweet flowers that smile in the walk of man; but they would be more respectable members of society, and discharge the important duties of life by the light of their own reason. 'Educate women like men,' says Rousseau, 'and the more they resemble our sex the less power will they have over us.' This is the very point I aim at. I do not wish them to have power over men; but over themselves. THANK YOU, MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT. Her discussions of what has come to be called "the male gaze"—the way in which girls and women are taught to think always of how their conduct will appear to men, and act accordingly, rather than acting to please themselves or in accordance with what is most appropriate to the situation—struck me as particularly insightful. In the paragraph following the one I quoted on Fordyce, for example, she points out that he (a preacher) tries to lure women into religious piety by arguing that men find it sexually attractive when women are lost in pious contemplation. Seriously, how insulting! I'm not even religious, and I understand how disrespectful that argument is to the deeply-held beliefs of people engaged with their faith. And yet, have things really changed? I'm reminded of so-called "womens' magazines" and the arguments they use to convince women to go to the gym: it's all about appearing more sexually attractive to a potential partner; and only lip-service is paid to the idea that a woman would value herself enough to want to make her body stronger and healthier for her own sake. Not that there weren't areas where Wollstonecraft and I diverge. She shares, for example, the common Enlightenment belief in humankind's ability to approach perfection through rational discourse, to achieve a state closer to God through the application of reason. Although I agree with her that men and women both benefit by the frequent exercise of their physical and mental faculties, I'm skeptical about how perfectible or rational the human race, or any individual, really is. Moreover, either because or in spite of my religious atheism/agnosticism, I tend to find Enlightenment arguments about the human ability to know God through logic a bit silly: The only solid foundation for morality appears to be the character of the supreme Being; the harmony of which arises from a balance of attributes;—and, to speak with reverence, one attribute seems to imply the necessity of another. He must be just, because he is wise, he must be good, because he is omnipotent. I mean, what? Judeo-Christian friends: is that sound theology? Why does one quality necessarily imply the others? I can easily imagine omnipotence without goodness, for example, just like every day I experience perfectly robust morality with no particular basis in divinity. Arguments like this always strike me as simply a human being imagining all the good things he can think of, combining them in his imagination into one Being, and then claiming that because he can conceptualize this Being, it must exist. And when I say "he," I mean Descartes. But apparently Mary Wollstonecraft as well. It's as if I made a drawing of my dream house, and then claimed that because I drew it, it must be available for purchase. My drawing doesn't prove that the house isn't available; but neither is it proof that it is. Not only that, but in her quest to agitate for the education of women as strong, rational creatures, Wollstonecraft veers so far in favor of strength and reason that she leaves little room for human vulnerability. Take the passage quoted above, for example, on the treatment of fear in girls and boys. While I agree that kids shouldn't be encouraged to be shrieking and cowering away from every little thing when they wouldn't be doing that naturally, I can hardly agree that their fear should be treated like that of boys in the sense of being sternly reprimanded, shamed, told that "boys don't cry," and so on. My personal ideal for both genders is a happy medium between the affected over-sensitivity that has historically been associated with women, and the repressive, uncommunicative stoicism that has often been expected of men. Humans feel fear, tenderness, anger, and so on for reasons, and it's illogical and unwise, in my opinion, to teach children to distort or disregard their true feelings rather than acknowledging those feelings and taking them into account when deciding how to act. (Not, of course, that a passing emotion should be the ONLY criterion for action; just that it should be, ideally, one piece of valid data among others.) Moreover, there's a difference between "fear" and "cowardice"; in equating the two, it seems to me Wollstonecraft is removing the possibility of courage, which I'd define as following through on a difficult action despite feeling afraid. (And in passing, Wollstonecraft's aversion to instinct struck me as one of the strangest facets of the book. She denigrates it even to the point of arguing that animal instinct somehow doesn't reflect her God: "Thus [sensibility] is defined by Dr. Johnson, and the definition gives me no other idea than of the most exquisitely polished instinct. I discern not a trace of the image of God in either sensation or matter." Yet where else would it come from, given her own belief in an all-powerful creator Being? I realize that, for Enlightenment thinkers, the gift of reason is what elevates humans above animals, but surely a benevolent God wouldn't endow the animals with an outright malevolent quality? A very odd, if minor, point.) Like most philosophers, then, Wollstonecraft takes certain positions with which I personally disagree; her feminism is, unsurprisingly, neither so radical nor so inclusive as that of certain more recent writers. Still, as an early, passionate step toward female equality, not to mention as a document of the tumultuous times (Wollstonecraft's argument is very tied up with the Republican rhetoric of democracy and equality which were giving rise to the American and French revolutions), Vindication of the Rights of Woman is an important and thought-provoking read, and one I'm glad to have in my repertoire.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    3.5/5 Women, I allow, may have different duties to fulfil; but they are human duties, and the principles that should regulate the discharge of them, I sturdily maintain, must be the same. Sound familiar? The quote I started my review of Beauvoir's The Second Sex with runs in a similarly powerful vein, and is why I am, for the first time, rounding my half star up instead of down. When it comes to this work, one must mercilessly separate the wheat from the chaff if the aim is Wollstonecraft's spir 3.5/5 Women, I allow, may have different duties to fulfil; but they are human duties, and the principles that should regulate the discharge of them, I sturdily maintain, must be the same. Sound familiar? The quote I started my review of Beauvoir's The Second Sex with runs in a similarly powerful vein, and is why I am, for the first time, rounding my half star up instead of down. When it comes to this work, one must mercilessly separate the wheat from the chaff if the aim is Wollstonecraft's spirit and not her letter, but what remains is a svelte and shining sword of a spine that can be run through even her own obstinate instances of bad faith. To ancient works that offer me this ironclad potential of self-reflexivity, I will give the full benefit of my attention. The phrases "ahead of the times", "represented the times", "behind the times", etc, etc, mean nothing to me, for it was not too long ago when the closest semblance to humanity was a heap of atoms squirming in the muck and the lightning. Our species will not survive long enough to merit me wasting my time on grading morality on a curve. [M]oss-covered opinions assume the disproportioned form of prejudices, when they are indolently adopted only because age has given them venerable aspect, though the reason on which they were built ceases to be a reason, or cannot be traced. Why are we to love prejudices, merely because they are prejudices? A true mark of a thinker is how receptive they are to you taking bits and pieces of their thought and applying them wholesale to other realms of their own insight. Out of context? Hardly. I'm not talking some eclectic mathematical formula transposed warts and all into some tenet of Hindu philosophy out of some misguided effort to propagate yet another Orientalizing confabulation. In the quote above, Wollstonecraft treats with prejudice in its entirety, so it would only be fitting to apply to this statement to each and every instance of her own displays of this misbegotten stagnation of critical thinking. That's the problem with using the entirety of humanity in order to prove an ethical point, you see. When you say all, you better mean all, else what are you doing opening your mouth in the first place. On what ground can religion or morality rest when justice is thus set as defiance? He wished to crush Carthage, not to save Rome, but to promote its vain-glory; and, in general, it is to similar principles that humanity is sacrificed, for genuine duties support each other. Before Wollstonecraft gifted me with the useful terms of defiance and vain-glory, I characterized my honing of morality on the general public as seeing who got angry and for what reasons. I'd do the same with her if I got the chance, for people inclined towards cisnormativity, heteronormativity, slut-shaming, islamophobia, Sew Work Exclusionary Radical Feminism (Swerf), white feminism, classism, ableism, and probably a great deal of others I missed would have a field day with this work. If I questioned her about these and this and those, which instances would she suppress as defiance? If I poked holes in her trend of immortal souls and biz by pointing out that, yes, they are women as well, how high would her vain-glory raise its genocidal head? I have no use for people who'd prefer it if I were exterminated. The subtlety of some is merely a survival mechanism; all they need is a conflagration for the seeds to sprout. Parents often love their children in the most brutal manner, and sacrifice every relative duty to promote their advancement in the world.—To promote, such is the perversity of unprincipled prejudices, the future welfare of the very beings whose present existence they imbitter by the most despotic stretch of power. One aspect of Wollstonecraft's treatise that I didn't expect and very much appreciate is her taking on the subject of pedagogy, especially in the realms of paternity and maternity. Children take on all sorts of roles in this world of mine: economic strip mine, free labor, emotional chew toy, blow up doll, cultural bridge, translator of the foreign/modern/the times they are a-changin', child, human being, perpetrators of matricide and/or patricide. I don't give a fuck what reasons you have/had/will have for bringing life into this world. I really don't. Barring some exigencies like the genocidal attitude governments have for certain ethnic populations, the way you raise your child is the way you will be convicted. If you're not willing to make the effort to earn the rights you think you have to the autonomy of your offspring regardless if they're gay, trans, disabled, female, young, not financially independent by eighteen, not on whatever is your definition of the right "track", any surprise on your part at what follows is obscene. Nothing more, nothing less. For man and woman, truth, if I understand the meaning of the word, must be the same; yet the fanciful female character, so prettily drawn by poets and novelists, demanding the sacrifice of truth and sincerity, virtue becomes a relative idea, having no other foundation than utility, and of that utility men pretend arbitrarily to judge, shaping it to their own convenience. Let the husband beware of trusting too implicitly to this servile obedience; for if his wife can with winning sweetness caress him when angry, and when she ought to be angry, unless contempt had stifled a natural effervescence, she may do the same after parting with a lover. Wollstonecraft misappropriates the word "slave" a lot, especially in light of The Book of Night Women, and what useful analyses she has to make of the white middle to upper class have to be put on the rack before they're applicable anywhere else, but she's got some valuable things to say about various holisms of morality, justice, and psychology shaped by any variation of tyranny. I'm just glad I didn't get to this before class thrust it upon me, cause the relation between the effort it takes one to sieve through prose and the amount one is bowled over by it in the process is a direct one, and I wouldn't have done myself or anyone else favors by cutting Wollstonecraft's words any slack. The 1790's are dead and gone, people. Let's not pull an anti-vacc on a less biological yet equally powerful front, mmkay? [T]hose who can see pain unmoved, will soon learn to inflict it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle Dubois

    « … the Rights of Woman must be respected, … I loudly demands JUSTICE for one half of the human race. » Mary Wollstonecraft While I read a book, I always have take some notes about beautiful words, interesting thoughts… I underline, not on the book pages, I hate this ! But on my red spiral notepad next to me, the quotes to remember or to use for my review. This time, I should have noticed nearly everything because each paragraph is important, each chapter is interesting. I learned more about the h « … the Rights of Woman must be respected, … I loudly demands JUSTICE for one half of the human race. » Mary Wollstonecraft While I read a book, I always have take some notes about beautiful words, interesting thoughts… I underline, not on the book pages, I hate this ! But on my red spiral notepad next to me, the quotes to remember or to use for my review. This time, I should have noticed nearly everything because each paragraph is important, each chapter is interesting. I learned more about the history of women, how they were (and still are in a way), underestimated by men. And Mary Wollstonecraft has great and very modern thoughts about the children’s education, boys and girls, and so many other subjects. I would have liked to quote all the book for you, readers, because Mary Wollstonecraft was so intelligent, courageous, cultivated, in a time were women were, because they had to be, uncultivated and afraid. Mary Wollsronecraft tells us, women, the reason why we see ourselves the way we do, and still nowadays… if she knew ! I can’t write a longer review, because all I could do would be paraphrasing her. Here are just few quotes : « Independence I have long considered as the grand blessing of life, the basis of every virtue—and independence I will ever secure by contracting my wants, though I were to live on a barren heath. » She’d like the women to stop « eating the bitter bread of dependence. » And she is « persuaded that the heart, as well as the understanding, is opened by cultivation. » PS: I read this book in French...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Duane

    I imagine Mary ruffled a few feathers when this book was published in 1792, but she only said what needed to be said. Examples of the suppression of women were many, but Wollstonecraft chronicles the ones that were most important to her and provides an intelligent, common sense analysis of what needed to be done in each instance. One of the most important was education, and her belief that young girls needed and deserved the same type of education that was made available to young men. Progress h I imagine Mary ruffled a few feathers when this book was published in 1792, but she only said what needed to be said. Examples of the suppression of women were many, but Wollstonecraft chronicles the ones that were most important to her and provides an intelligent, common sense analysis of what needed to be done in each instance. One of the most important was education, and her belief that young girls needed and deserved the same type of education that was made available to young men. Progress has been made since 1792, but in her examples you will see that shades of the past still linger in certain areas. This is an important work and should be read by everyone, but it suffers from it's length, it's language and writing style. Eighteenth century writing can be tedious, especially non-fiction, but the message is there and it is certainly worth reading.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Fiona

    I particularly liked the bit where she said if women didn't get a proper education, they might find themselves "dependent on the novelist for amusement." Awkward.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    “Make them free, and they will quickly become wise and virtuous, as men become more so; for the improvement must be mutual, or the injustice which one half of the human race are obliged to submit to, retorting on their oppressors, the virtue of men will be worm-eaten by the insect whom he keeps under his feet.” In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft had the guts and awareness to write a common sense response to the prevailing mentality of her day--that women did not share the same rights as men. Sadly, in “Make them free, and they will quickly become wise and virtuous, as men become more so; for the improvement must be mutual, or the injustice which one half of the human race are obliged to submit to, retorting on their oppressors, the virtue of men will be worm-eaten by the insect whom he keeps under his feet.” In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft had the guts and awareness to write a common sense response to the prevailing mentality of her day--that women did not share the same rights as men. Sadly, in 2017--over 200 years later--we are still making this argument. Where was this book when I was in college? I don’t even remember it being on a reading list--not in history or psychology or educational theory or women’s literature. This is a text to study. Not that the text itself is difficult to understand. She takes some controversial approaches (to female sexuality, religion, and class distinctions), and I have problems with some of her opinions, but the core of the text is as simple as: woman = human education should be the same for everyone when you oppress women, these bad things happen if you treat people equally, these good things will happen Of course this applies to all human rights. The argument in favor is simple: equality, inclusion, acceptance, appreciation. What is complex, and what needs to be studied, is the engine of oppression: who starts it, what makes it run, and most importantly, how can we speed up the unbearably slow process of stopping it. “It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world!”

  13. 5 out of 5

    Below

    Mary Wollstonecraft: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman A brief introduction to a feminist classic. What is the Vindication? A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (hence the Vindication) is the classic feminist text. It was written in 1792, and it has its roots in the Enlightenment. Broadly, its aim is to apply the ideas of rights and equality to women and not just to men. This article will briefly explore the origins of the work of Wollstonecraft by looking at John Locke and Jean Jacques Roussea Mary Wollstonecraft: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman A brief introduction to a feminist classic. What is the Vindication? A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (hence the Vindication) is the classic feminist text. It was written in 1792, and it has its roots in the Enlightenment. Broadly, its aim is to apply the ideas of rights and equality to women and not just to men. This article will briefly explore the origins of the work of Wollstonecraft by looking at John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau, and then look at some of the themes which are present in the text. The Roots of The Vindication John Locke John Locke (1632 – 1704) was a philosopher and political thinker (he was also a political economist, though he is not remembered for this). The most relevant aspect of his philosophy for the work of Wollstonecraft is his theory of empiricism, which was outlined in his work An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. This work argued that people are a blank slate (tabula rasa) at birth, and later develop as people, based upon their experiences.(1) Locke's political philosophy was based around the notion of the social contract. Locke was a firm critic of the nation of patriarchalism, an idea that had been put forward by thinkers such as Robert Filmer. Patriarchalism claimed that the ruler of a state was directly descended from Adam (and thus had the right to rule), that the people should not choose their rulers, and that rulers should act towards the people the way a father behaves towards his wife and children in a traditional marriage.(2) Locke, although God plays an important role in his argument, rejected the claim that kings have a divine right to rule based upon descent from Adam. (3) Locke instead used the device of the state of nature. Locke's state of nature was relatively peaceful, and people were able to own property. He argued that the state of nature has “inconveniences” due to each individual having the right to punish others who offend against the natural laws of God. Thus is makes sense for rational individuals to allow for a political power to arbitrate disputes. (4) Thus, power is not arbitrary, but built upon the will and consent of the people. Jean Jacques Rousseau Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778) was an important 18th century political thinker. Rousseau's state of nature saw man as being amoral and animalesque rather than rational. Rousseau argued that when people come together in groups the rich can abuse the poor, and the poor can be tricked into a false “social contract” for security reasons. (5) Instead of this, in his work The Social Contract, Rousseau argued for a rational state based upon the idea of the “general will”, using direct democracy rather than representative government. (6) However, Rousseau's nation of the citizen (citoyen) in such a state explicitly excluded women. Rousseau believed that women's role should be confined to the private sphere. In his work Emile, he laid out what he believed the ideal woman to be like: essentially a woman who conformed to traditional feminine roles. (7) The Vindication Reason and Virtue: Enlightenment Values Wollstonecraft believed that human beings' value was based upon Reason and the cultivation of Virtue. “Consequently the perfection of our nature and capability of happiness, must be estimated by the degree of reason, virtue, and knowledge, that distinguish the individual, and direct the laws which bind society: and that from the exercise of reason, knowledge and virtue naturally flow, is equally undeniable, if mankind be viewed collectively.” (8) Thus Wollstonecraft goes back to first principles, the principles of the Enlightenment, right at the beginning of her case. Reason and virtue are capacities that have to be developed by the individual. The Role of God Wollstonecraft is also explicit in appealing to God in her theory. She argues that women are equal to men based upon their equality in the eyes of God and the fact that both men and women have souls. They are thus able to both develop their reason and virtue. (9) Class and Wollstonecraft Wollstonecraft specifically says that she is aiming her theory at the middle-class (i.e. bourgeois) women of her era. Inheriting the Enlightenment dislike for the aristocracy (and by extension, arbitrary power), she uses them as an analogy to develop her point that women's education has a corroding effect. Because the aristocracy have inherited their wealth and have not had to work for it, they are like the badly educated women Wollstonecraft describes, obsessed with pleasure over virtue. Bourgeois women on the other hand, Wollstonecraft believes, have a genuine opportunity to be able to improve themselves. (10) The Role of Education Mary Wollstonecraft explicitly agrees with the theory laid out by John Locke that human beings are shaped by their environment and education. Rather that claiming, unlike Rousseau, that the fripperies of woman were natural, she blamed them on the society. She is a fierce critic of the education that is given to girls in her era. Girls were, rather than being taught to develop their reason, were simply taught how to gain a man. They were taught “a smattering of accomplishments” in order to entertain, rather than to develop the capacities of reason and virtue. They were kept inside rather than allowed to play outside, leading to women's physical weakness compared to men to be exaggerated. “Women are told from their infancy, and taught by the example of their mothers, that a little knowledge of human weakness, justly termed cunning, softness of temper, outward obedience, and a scrupulous attention to a puerile kind of propriety, will obtain for them the protection of man; and should they be beautiful, every thing else is needless, for, at least, twenty years of their lives.” (11) The results of this education were clear to Wollstonecraft. Women were physically weak, obsessed with beauty and how to entertain and gain flattery from a man. If they read at all, it was facetious novels* rather than serious texts. Women's only power becomes based on manipulation, cunning and flattery, which undermines rather than promoting virtue. (12) Wollstonecraft had some rather radical ideas on education for the time period. She believed that day-schools should be provided to educate all children together. She believed both that boarding schools lead to vice, but also that home education meant that children could not develop properly as they lacked peers. Wollstonecraft even cuts across class divides a little, as she says that even working-class children could be educated up to the age of 9. (13) However, Wollstonecraft claims that education is not a cure-all for the oppression of women. Society in general also plays an important role. *Wollstonecraft was actually a writer of novels herself, as an aside. Modesty, Love and Friendship Wollstonecraft had very specific views on the ideas of love and friendship as well as modesty and chastity. She disliked an excessive focus on the surface appearance of things, and this can be shown by her views both on modesty and chastity, and her views on love and friendship. As regards chastity, Wollstonecraft argues that women have an overriding imperative to maintain the reputation of being chaste. If a woman is marked out as unchaste, then it is basically impossible for her to marry. However, the focus is upon maintaining the outside appearance of chastity, rather than actually cultivating modesty itself, which is a virtue. The focus on the idea of chastity means that women are likely to use whatever underhanded tricks they can to maintain their reputation, which is corrupting of the actual character and virtues of the individual. (14) Wollstonecraft believes that love is a fleeting thing. She believes that women who cultivate only their beauty, and men who focus only on beauty when determining a wife, are both going to lose out in the long run. As beauty fades, as the marriage progresses it is likely to become unhappy. Whereas, a marriage based upon a deeper bond of friendship is more likely to be able to be maintained over the long term, because both partners have a deeper respect for one another. Wollstonecraft also believed that women should not be reliant on marriage. (15) Equality Versus Difference: The Dilemma There is an important tension in the work of Wollstonecraft that has been present in feminism since: are women to be valued because they are the same as men, or because they are different from men, having the capacity for childbirth and motherhood? Wollstonecraft displays both of these tendencies in her work. As already mentioned, she believes that women are equal to men, and that women, rather than being dependent on a man, could make their own living. She considers that (bourgeois) women who fritter away their time rather than developing their capacities through a work role are wasted. “How many women thus waste life away the prey of discontent, who might have practised as physicians, regulated a farm, managed a shop, and stood erect, supported by their own industry, instead of hanging their heads surcharged with the dew of sensibility...” (16) However, she also stressed the importance of the role of motherhood for women. She believes that, to be an effective mother, women need a strong education and capacity to reason. She explicitly says that, weak, badly educated women make poor wives and mothers in comparison to an educated woman. “Would men but generously snap our chains, and be content with rational fellowship instead of slavish obedience, they would find us more observant daughters, more affectionate sisters, more faithful wives, more reasonable mothers—in a word, better citizens.” (ch 9) Thus there is an ambiguity in the text here that has had an important role throughout the history of the feminist movement. [b]Notes[/b] (1) J. Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, http://marxists.org/reference/subject... (2) R. Filmer, Patriarcha, http://www.constitution.org/eng/patri... (3) J. Locke, Second Treatise on Government, Chapter 1, http://marxists.org/reference/subject... (4) Ibid, Chapter 3, http://marxists.org/reference/subject... (5) “Rousseau”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rou... (6) J. J. Rousseau, The Social Contract, http://www.constitution.org/jjr/socon... (7) http://www.iep.utm.edu/rousseau/#H5 (8) M. Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Chapter 1, http://www.bartleby.com/144/1.html (9) Ibid, Chapter 2, http://www.bartleby.com/144/2.html (10) Ibid, Introduction, http://www.bartleby.com/144/103.html (11) Ibid, Chapter 2. (12) Ibid, Chapter 12, http://www.bartleby.com/144/12.html (13) Ibid. (14) Ibid, Chapters 7 & 8. (15) “Mary Wollstonecraft”, Stanford Dictionary of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/wol... (16) Ibid, chapter 9, http://www.bartleby.com/144/9.html (17) Ibid.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Helynne

    What a perceptive and courageous watershed work of feminism--especially for 1792! Mary Wollstonecraft, journalist, novelist, and wife of political philosopher William Godwin, eventually had three children, and died giving birth to the last, Mary Godwin Shelley, who would grow up to marry a famous, radical poet, and herself write Frankenstein and several other novels a generation later. Wollstonecraft, writing in the middle of the French Revolution, albeit in relative safety across the English C What a perceptive and courageous watershed work of feminism--especially for 1792! Mary Wollstonecraft, journalist, novelist, and wife of political philosopher William Godwin, eventually had three children, and died giving birth to the last, Mary Godwin Shelley, who would grow up to marry a famous, radical poet, and herself write Frankenstein and several other novels a generation later. Wollstonecraft, writing in the middle of the French Revolution, albeit in relative safety across the English Channel, was a pioneer in taking the Revolution's new idea of the natural rights of mankind, and applying it specifically to women. In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, she refuses to see women as inferior to men. Her essay calls for better education for women, decries the limitations placed on married women of all classes, and dares criticize the idleness and wasted lives of women in the upper classes. (She even compares the daily routine of rich women to those of Turkish women in seraglios). But her anger isn't directed at uneducated or silly women, but at all the tragically wasted potential she sees in them, and at how they can allow this lifestyle to happen to them. Wollstonecraft is outraged that women soon learn that their sole power lies in how well they can please men. "My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone," Wollsteoncraft states early in her work. "I earnestly wish to point out in what true dignity and human happiness consists. I wish to persuade women to endeavor to acquire strength, both of mind and body, and to convince them that the soft phrases, susceptibility of heart, delicacy of sentiment, and refinement of taste, are almost synonymous with epithets of weakness, and that those beings are only the objects of pity, and that kind of love which has been termed its sister, will soon become objects of contempt." Whew! Pretty bold stuff for 1792! Wollstonecraft does indeed achieve in the most eloquent, but straightforward, language exactly what she sets out to do. As her philosophy in this book quickly crossed the Atlantic and became the basis for the (painfully slow) rise of feminism in the United States, we American women owe Wollstonecraft and this incredibly articulate and audacious essay a huge debt of gratitude! Bravo, Wollestonecraft!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Evelyn

    I've read a few feminist texts in the past, but none quite compare to this, which is often deemed as the classic feminist text. Unlike others which can be on the painfully dry and weary side of things, Wollstonecraft's attitude just jumps out at you with every page that you turn of this book. Reading it is like listening to her perform a speech in front of millions, it's so strong and passionate. It really is incredible when you remember that this was published in 1792, I don't think I've read a I've read a few feminist texts in the past, but none quite compare to this, which is often deemed as the classic feminist text. Unlike others which can be on the painfully dry and weary side of things, Wollstonecraft's attitude just jumps out at you with every page that you turn of this book. Reading it is like listening to her perform a speech in front of millions, it's so strong and passionate. It really is incredible when you remember that this was published in 1792, I don't think I've read anything like this that I compare it with on a contemporary level, books are just not written like this anymore. Highly recommended.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tanima

    I stumbled upon A Vindication of the Rights of Woman for a classics challenge read, but I was also curious to read about the views of women’s rights long before it was even a movement. Mary Wollstonecraft was undoubtedly ahead of her time. Although she grew up in an unstable household and was denied education from an early age, she was an intellectual who loved to read and was interested in writing about political and philosophical issues. She decided to support herself by pursuing a career as a I stumbled upon A Vindication of the Rights of Woman for a classics challenge read, but I was also curious to read about the views of women’s rights long before it was even a movement. Mary Wollstonecraft was undoubtedly ahead of her time. Although she grew up in an unstable household and was denied education from an early age, she was an intellectual who loved to read and was interested in writing about political and philosophical issues. She decided to support herself by pursuing a career as a professional writer at a time when it was “unwomanly” and “unnatural” to do so. And interestingly, her daughter was Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. Ironically, the issues of stereotypes, intellectualism, and family that plagued her life are the very issues she advocates most ardently in the novel. Wollstonecraft does an insightful job of observing some of the most dominant societal forces holding the women back of her time. She argues that women are traditionally raised to conform to being helpless, docile, and attractive, and one of the most effective ways to combat ignorance and prejudice is education. She proposes that both men and women should be educated rationally, and set to the same standards because “virtue will never prevail in society till the virtues of both sexes are founded on reason.” But, she goes even further by accounting for the argument that women will no longer have “soft bewitching beauty” by countering that they will have “dignified beauty, and true grace,” and how their efforts will benefit the rest of society. In essence, she accounts for politics, familial traditions, religious beliefs, and economics in her arguments. An argument that strikes me as interesting, regarding the traditional views of her time, is when she states that “all writers” who write on women render them “more artificial, weak characters, than they would otherwise have been,” thus consequently readers view them as “more useless members of society.” This statement and the other examples she provides throughout give the impression that since a patriarchal society elaborates these views about women, they become these things, these things consume them, and they conform to these images of what women should do and be. It's a reinforced cycle. A difficult, but fascinating read. I did skip around a bit because she goes off on tangents sometimes. But “like her mother, she became a great writer. Using her mother’s philosophy, she wrote what has become the greatest novel about what happens when the laws of nature are violated.” (Serrin Foster) A beautiful quote: “[T]he reed is shaken by a breeze, and annually dies, but the oak stands firm, and for ages braves the storm.”

  17. 5 out of 5

    Monique Gerke

    Ótimo livro. Mary Wollstonecraft com certeza viveu a frente do seu tempo, seus questionamentos são pertinentes E necessários ainda em nossa época. Juro que quando um desavisado me perguntar novamente, "pra quê serve o feminismo" em nossa tão evoluída época (de grandes conquistas e realizações, quá quá), vou sugerir a leitura desse livro. Tivemos grandes mudanças em termos de direitos, SIM, mas a mudança que é necessária (e definitiva), é a mudança de mentalidade, e essa ainda está bem longe - como Ótimo livro. Mary Wollstonecraft com certeza viveu a frente do seu tempo, seus questionamentos são pertinentes E necessários ainda em nossa época. Juro que quando um desavisado me perguntar novamente, "pra quê serve o feminismo" em nossa tão evoluída época (de grandes conquistas e realizações, quá quá), vou sugerir a leitura desse livro. Tivemos grandes mudanças em termos de direitos, SIM, mas a mudança que é necessária (e definitiva), é a mudança de mentalidade, e essa ainda está bem longe - como mostra esse livro publicado em 1792. Aprendi muito conteúdo novo e esclarecedor, que me fez compreender melhor que ainda estamos agrilhoadas por algumas formas de agir e pensar, fruto da opressão e da cultura machista enraizada na nossa sociedade (que atinge homens e mulheres), mas que pode ser quebrada através do conhecimento e do livre pensamento. Nós somos responsáveis por quebrar nossos grilhões.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    'A revolution in female manners [would] reform the world' Passionate, forceful, forthright, sharp, irritable, rigorous and oh so rational, what would Wollstonecraft think that over 200 years after her 1791 polemic we still have to argue about equal pay, body image, female aspiration, authorised social constructions of 'femininity' and 'masculinity' and other forms of politicised social and cultural inequality? Forging links between female subjugation and class oppression, between government tyran 'A revolution in female manners [would] reform the world' Passionate, forceful, forthright, sharp, irritable, rigorous and oh so rational, what would Wollstonecraft think that over 200 years after her 1791 polemic we still have to argue about equal pay, body image, female aspiration, authorised social constructions of 'femininity' and 'masculinity' and other forms of politicised social and cultural inequality? Forging links between female subjugation and class oppression, between government tyranny and more personal forms of autocracy, Wollstonecraft, a passionate radical with an abhorrence of slavery, aristocratic and inherited power, remains a startlingly modern voice.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Giss Golabetoon

    The language might be a little hard but i love this first piece of feminist literature, if only Rousseau didn't talk too much

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty

    I read Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman as part of my thesis research. Whilst I'm unsure if I will quote directly from it, it is an important and solid foundation of early feminism. The book was as I expected it would be; it is interesting in part, and makes some good points, but it became quite dry on occasion, and the prose was repetitive. Whilst clearly well informed and well written, the proofreader in me became a little frustrated with the sheer quantity of commas I read Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman as part of my thesis research. Whilst I'm unsure if I will quote directly from it, it is an important and solid foundation of early feminism. The book was as I expected it would be; it is interesting in part, and makes some good points, but it became quite dry on occasion, and the prose was repetitive. Whilst clearly well informed and well written, the proofreader in me became a little frustrated with the sheer quantity of commas which Wollstonecraft employs. Whilst certainly a seminal work, and one of the first which promoted equal rights for women, I did not find A Vindication of the Rights of Woman as relevant to today as I thought I would. Much of what is discussed here is of its time, bound up with religion. Regardless, you could do worse than read this; Wollstonecraft explores a lot of options which she believes would bring about the equality of the sexes or, at the very least, stand to give women a fighting chance. She looks at education, motherhood, parental influence, a woman's character, and the way in which women are depicted in works by male authors, just for starters.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    I love man as my fellow; but his sceptre real or usurped, extends not to me, unless the reason of an individual demands my homage; and even then the submission is to reason, and not to man. Mary Wollstonecraft's classic feminist work touches upon all reasons why women are treated like slaves - and almost all of them have to do with their education. The teaching of decorum, ladyship, the proper way of wearing a dress, the beauty of oneself and the denial of access to books of all kinds and physi I love man as my fellow; but his sceptre real or usurped, extends not to me, unless the reason of an individual demands my homage; and even then the submission is to reason, and not to man. Mary Wollstonecraft's classic feminist work touches upon all reasons why women are treated like slaves - and almost all of them have to do with their education. The teaching of decorum, ladyship, the proper way of wearing a dress, the beauty of oneself and the denial of access to books of all kinds and physical exercise are the sins she talks about. I agree with her. Where literature, science and history combine to make a woman richer in mind, it would be a surprise to find her base, idiotic and overly concerned with her appearance or what others think of her. I wish some of the radical and rabid feminists of today would go back to the writings of someone like Wollstonecraft, who was first and foremost concerned with building women up, not tearing men down. I would highly recommend this read to any sincere feminist; although written in the 18th Century it still stands to this day, and the fight for what it hopes is still ongoing.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ceyda

    Ataerkil baskıya ve erkek egemen düzene kendi terimleriyle karşı çıkmış ilk feminist savunulardan biri bu kitap. Her ne kadar bazı düşünceleri beni dehşete düşürse de zamanının ötesinde düşünen bir kadın Mary Wollstonecraft.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Garner

    I've had to give up on this one, the language isn't doing my dyslexic brain any good. I understand her intentions but by chapter 2 I was struggling to understand what she was saying with all the old way of speaking.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Yasmin

    It has been 221 years since A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was published. In that time women have come along way in a fast time, it could be said as much...Women's suffrage movement in the UK began in 1872; the first woman to vote in Britian was 1867;in Ireland the Dublin Women's Suffrage Association was established in 1874; Women in Britian were given the vote in 1918 for women over the age of 30 and had property (which means wives of householders or wives who lived in a rent of over 5 po It has been 221 years since A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was published. In that time women have come along way in a fast time, it could be said as much...Women's suffrage movement in the UK began in 1872; the first woman to vote in Britian was 1867;in Ireland the Dublin Women's Suffrage Association was established in 1874; Women in Britian were given the vote in 1918 for women over the age of 30 and had property (which means wives of householders or wives who lived in a rent of over 5 pounds or graduates from universities);1928 all women over the age of 21 voted same as male counterparts and 1965 so called "Equal Pay" bill passed, however, not every company was forced to recognise this bill and equal pay was about 92% of what men were payed (or less depending on the business/company/etc. Australia was the first country to bring voting for women in 1902 and Canada didn't recoginse women as human beings by law until 1922. Impressive? Hardly, while it looks like fast work it took a very long time to get to this milestones, loss of life and break up of families had to happen before any of these things became possible. What then for women? The odd woman reached high positions of power, notably Margaret Thatcher,Kim Campbell (of Canada) and Benzazir Bhutto in the 20th century. But in many ways while of this looks grand considering no woman stood an earthly of being or becoming anything in Mary Wollenstonecraft much has not changed since her time. Girls are still separated from boys with dolls and fussing about clothes and make up and feminity and boys still run wilder with toy cars, guns and toy adult tools. Boys and girls do not respect each other as they become older and many see sex in adolence as a rite of passage into adulthood and trifled with. Girls and women are still forced into prostitution and sexual abuse, mental abuse and violence is rampant in the 21st century. Rape is still not a capital offence and if a man is wealthy enough he can buy his bail and walk free after murdering his girlfriend, no questions asked. Indeed with rampant violence and extreme sexual graphic, pornography and etc. it is a wonder women have progressed at all. But women are not helpless victims. They can be independent finiancially and spiritually more so than was ever dreamed by Mary Wollenstonecraft and other women of her time. It was said in the past Mary Wollenstonecraft was anti-men and extreme even for early feminists. Well it must have been a predujice in their own minds for Wollenstonecraft blames women almost as much as she blames men for their condition and in my opinion she wasn't extreme enough. A modern sequel to A Vindicaton of the Rights of Woman would be a very interesting and helpful read as indeed her own second part would have been an interesting read. Unfortunately for her the common cause of death of women at that time ended all possibilty of a continuation, childbirth. Well I should ammend that it is almost as common now as it was then. Hard to believe in the 21st century women are still dying of childbirth and many are not allowed to be commanders of their bodies. Yes that's right abortion. Legalised for many, illegal for too many. Whether or not people are for or against it the importance that many forget including other women is that a woman's body is her own domain no one else's. But as women are dying needlessly from childbirth still women too are dying needlessly for being denied healthcare for their bodies, be it death from a complicated birth or from the shame of allowance or not allowance for abortion. Arrange marriages contiune in this day and age from the traditional methods or from peer pressure. Yes hard to believe there is peer pressure for women to marry and have children. But there is. We exist in the 21st century but many of us have 18th century thinking in all corners of the globe. For her time Mary Wollenstonecraft was advanced for our time she didn't really go far enough with her thinking. Much of the language is old fashioned but it's an old book what can be expected? However, the respect of fellow human beings has been around for 2000 years and it is a question of open minds not education to see that a person will behave with respect towards others.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lara Malik

    Es un libro que se me ocurrio leer debido a que este tema esta más que presente en esta época, el feminimo. A pesar de ser un libro corto las primeras 100 hojas se hacen muy difíciles de llevar por la redacción (no por el léxico usado), y las 60 restantes parecen un parpadeo. Muchos de los tópicos que toca podrían considerarse ya superados, pero increíblemente la mayoría persisten (solo estan cubiertos). Más que nada la parte de la fragilidad y la imagen de la mujer. Una obra que nos recuerda lo Es un libro que se me ocurrio leer debido a que este tema esta más que presente en esta época, el feminimo. A pesar de ser un libro corto las primeras 100 hojas se hacen muy difíciles de llevar por la redacción (no por el léxico usado), y las 60 restantes parecen un parpadeo. Muchos de los tópicos que toca podrían considerarse ya superados, pero increíblemente la mayoría persisten (solo estan cubiertos). Más que nada la parte de la fragilidad y la imagen de la mujer. Una obra que nos recuerda lo que realmente persigue este movimiento y cuanto se deformo con el paso de los años.

  26. 4 out of 5

    SaЯRah Muhammad

    In both the Preface and the Introduction, Wollstonecraft emphasizes what she sees as the root cause of the failure of men to treat women as equals. Men discourage women from achieving the same education that men routinely are given, and as long as women are denied this education, then they can never hope to achieve social and economic parity with men. In her opening remarks to Talleyrand, she is gently optimistic that her powers of persuasion will be sufficient such that he "will not throw my w In both the Preface and the Introduction, Wollstonecraft emphasizes what she sees as the root cause of the failure of men to treat women as equals. Men discourage women from achieving the same education that men routinely are given, and as long as women are denied this education, then they can never hope to achieve social and economic parity with men. In her opening remarks to Talleyrand, she is gently optimistic that her powers of persuasion will be sufficient such that he "will not throw my work aside." Her other comments are couched in similar conciliatory terms: "I call upon you, therefore, now to weigh what I have advanced respecting the rights of women." It is not only the lack of educational opportunity for women that rouses Wollstonecraft's ire. She connects this lack with a general lack of respect to a morality that has become "an empty name." Men cannot acknowledge morality in women unless they can first acquire it in their own persons. The only way, she notes, for men to do both is for them to permit women to have sufficient access to education that will lead women to acquire virtue. Wollstonecraft suggests that virtue in women cannot occur until men respect them enough for women to feel virtuous. As long as men see women as trophy wives, alluring mistresses, and idolized objects of unneeded Renaissance gallantry, then the oppression of women will continue under a paternalistic hand. Wollstonecraft's annoyance clearly is evident when she considers that men have appointed themselves the gender guardian of what is best for women: "Who made man the exclusive judge if women partake with him the gift of reason?" Throughout history, she continues, tyrants of all stripes have been "eager to crush reason; yet always assert that they usurp its throne only to be useful." Men of Wollstonecraft's day are very much like the tyrants of former eras, and the female victims of the present are no less oppressed than all the victims of the past. Wollstonecraft roundly condemns men for their own dearth of virtue in that when men see no need to expect virtue in women, then they feel no necessity to show it themselves. The result of this failure to expect or exhibit virtue is their seeking extra-marital affairs, a state she terms a "box of mischief." When men stray in this manner, their wives may follow suit or even neglect their children. All that remains for such women is to seek to obtain by cunning and guile what their men ought to dispense freely. In the Introduction, Wollstonecraft builds upon the same idea that women are deprived of equality by being denied a proper education. Surprisingly enough, she does not lay the blame squarely on men. Wollstonecraft writes of various faults that women commit that enable men to get away with such heavy-handed actions. She writes as if women are little more than clay figurines to be molded exclusively by men: "The minds of women are enfeebled by false refinement." This "enfeeblement" has its origins in a myriad of sources, all of which women are seemingly unable to resist. She writes of "books of instruction" (written by men of genius) which purport to be models of delicate feminine behavior. It is unclear from context whether "genius" is meant ironically. Even more startlingly, Wollstonecraft admits flat out that in some respects at least, men are biologically superior to women: "In the government of the physical world, it is observable that the female, in general, is inferior to the male. The male pursues, the female yields--this is the law of nature." She adds that "this physical superiority cannot be denied." She does grant that men take unfair advantage of this immutable law of nature by widening what should be merely a biological gap into a sociological chasm: "But not content with this natural pre-eminence, men endeavor to sink us still lower, merely to render us alluring objects for the moment." Women, it follows, cannot help but be "intoxicated by the adoration which men, under the influence of their senses, pay them." The strength and persuasiveness of Wollstonecraft's arguments are diluted by her being unable to detach herself from her thoroughly middle-class status. Those who reside above her on the economic ladder seemingly reside in a universe untouched by matters that relate to those lower on the scale. She, as one of the middle class, is in a "natural state," and thus amenable to the laws of nature and the power of rhetoric. Those who are of the upper class are "weak, artificial beings raised above the common wants and affections of their race, and in a premature unnatural manner, undermine the very foundation of virtue, and spread corruption through the whole mass of society!" Such women are to be pitied since their education "tends to render them vain and helpless." What Wollstonecraft does not acknowledge is that such female vanity and helplessness are not limited to the empty-headed women of the rich. In fact, it is these very traits that she so lamentably bemoans that are so entrenched in the females of her own middle class. Life, for these rich women, is limited to a useless search for amusement in a world bereft of it. Wollstonecraft further suggests that women are at least partially to blame for their unchivalrous treatment by men. She assumes that given the least amount of gallantry by men that women will immediately assume the fawning traits of docility that so enrage her: "My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their FASCINATING graces and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone." The favored male tactic to suppress and dominate women is to show untoward gallantry and excessive politeness at all times. Wollstonecraft terms all such patriarchal barbarities as "the soft phrase, susceptibility of heart, delicacy of sentiment, and refinement of taste," all of which inevitably lead to such actions as "almost synonymous with epithets of weakness," From these actions by men, she concludes that "those pretty feminine phrases" do no more than to engender a "weak elegance of mind, exquisite sensibility, and sweet docility of manners" in women. Thus, in comparing the elegance of gallantry to the endurance of virtue, women may seek the latter but settle for the former. The language and style of her book have caused future critics to discern a disparity between the clearly stated message and the less clearly phrased rhetoric. On one hand, Wollstonecraft promises that her writing will be the very epitome of simplicity and conciseness, yet on the other the content belies the asserted intent. She writes of her intended simplicity: "I shall disdain to cull my phrases or polish my style--I aim at being useful; and sincerity will render me unaffected; for wishing rather than to persuade by the force of my arguments, than dazzle by the elegance of my language, I shall not waste my time in rounding periods, nor in fabricating the turgid bombast of artificial feelings, which coming from the head, never reach the heart." This sounds very much as if she places considerable urgency in keeping matters expressed as clear and unaffected as possible. Flowery diction, then, ought to have no place in her book. However, at the start of her Introduction, she uses a series of botanical metaphors whose elegance is intrusive: "The conduct and manners of women, in fact, evidently prove, that their minds are not in a healthy state; for like the flowers that are planted in too rich a soil, strength and usefulness are sacrificed to beauty; and the flaunting leaves, after having pleased a fastidious eye, fade, disregarded on the stalk, long before the season when they ought to have arrived in maturity. One cause of this barren blooming I attribute to a false system of education." The issues of apparent inferiority raised in both the Preface and Introduction are revisited in later chapters of Wollstonecraft's book. Each time that she considers why men are permitted to so thoroughly dominate women, she more often than not implies that there is some defect lurking within women that men are quick to expand upon to justify a series of patriarchal actions that are no less than tyrannous despite the ostensible gallantry with which they are couched.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Pilar Erika

    Very well done, Mary Wollstonecraft. I really like your courageous essay to vindicate the rights of women <3

  28. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

    The eloquence of early writers like Wollstonecraft simply delights me! To make her case for the proper education of women, Wollstonecraft asserts that the present state of women derives from acquired habit and learned associations — not from a fault of the innate nature of females — and censures both Milton's inconsistent discussions on the female sex in Paradise Lost as well as Rousseau's condescension of women in his work Émile. There are many instances when she appeals to the propounded value The eloquence of early writers like Wollstonecraft simply delights me! To make her case for the proper education of women, Wollstonecraft asserts that the present state of women derives from acquired habit and learned associations — not from a fault of the innate nature of females — and censures both Milton's inconsistent discussions on the female sex in Paradise Lost as well as Rousseau's condescension of women in his work Émile. There are many instances when she appeals to the propounded values of the male intelligentsia of the late eighteenth century to emphasize the importance of educating women. She relies on religiously founded arguments (e.g., if women do indeed possess immortal souls, should they not then cultivate these souls with equal vigor as that of the opposite sex, instead of concentrating on more trivial and delicate employments?) as well as those founded on the highest virtue of Reason. Wollstonecraft's boldness is all the more compelling given the time in which this book was written. A particularly comedic expression of her temerity is her footnote "What nonsense!" in response to a quotation from Rousseau's book. She even admits that she wishes the current system of education "exploded." Wollstonecraft sincerely believed women were only rendered inadequate from want of opportunity, not want of the necessary faculties. Thus, a seminal text that everybody should read and relish. One can simply not but be impressed by her forthrightness and her fervor.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Juanita

    Mary Wollstonecraft was a 16th century mother, teacher, writer, philosopher, feminist, and journalist. She wrote several books and stood out as a rebel in her day. I HAD to read this book because of a college project. But after just the first page I understood why Mary stood out. She was a brilliant and fearless author. For my class I had to research the ways that women were treated in the 16th century as it related to the bravery of Wollstonecraft. Women HAD to be married in order to entertain Mary Wollstonecraft was a 16th century mother, teacher, writer, philosopher, feminist, and journalist. She wrote several books and stood out as a rebel in her day. I HAD to read this book because of a college project. But after just the first page I understood why Mary stood out. She was a brilliant and fearless author. For my class I had to research the ways that women were treated in the 16th century as it related to the bravery of Wollstonecraft. Women HAD to be married in order to entertain even the slightest hope of a satisfactory life; meaning if they expected to eat, they had to be married; if they wanted to be respected by society, they had to be married; if they expected to just have – not enjoy - sex (as an orgasm – even making noise according to Mary during sex - for a woman was considered tawdry), they had to be married. So being single for a woman at least was not a reasonable option. Mary was single until the year of her death at age 38. Every page I read had some quote that read like a modern day revelation. Example: “Women are told from their infancy, and taught by example of their mothers, that a little knowledge of human weakness, justly termed cunning, softness of temper, outward obedience, and a scrupulous attention to a puerile kind of propriety, will obtain for them the protection of man; and should they be beautiful, everything else is needless, for, at least, twenty years of their lives.” – page 16. Mary later stated (paraphrasing) that this view, that women need only be beautiful, cunning, and obedient, was a fallacy. She even talked about education being the key to not needing a man to “protect” a woman. I am not a feminist in the traditional, extreme sense. I believe that it is not only OK to allow a man to lead his household but feel that it is essential that that man take the lead in order for family life to run smoothly – like any other business – IF a man is in a woman’s life. However, I do not feel that women NEED men in order to to raise a family, prosper financially, emotionally, or in any other way. Mary believed this when no one else – male or female – did. Mary argued time and again for the rights of an education for women saying that we are the first teachers of our children. Therefore an educated woman is even more necessary than an educated man if we wish to get our kids off to a good start in life. She believed that women were more than our reputations or our standing in society. She wanted all women to realize that they were of substance. That’s why this book, though hundreds of years old, is a book that I read so often. I gave the book just four stars because it was difficult for me to read and will be a difficult read for most ordinary readers since it is written in the grammatical tone used in Mary’s day. It’s almost in another language because the sentence structure is so different than what we use today. But it is more than worth the effort!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Celebrate International Women's Day! March 8, 2017 Wear red, stand in solidarity with all women, for equal rights under the law, equal respect, equal pay, and legal control over our own bodies and choices. "Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful." ~ Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

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