Mary Wolstonecraft

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Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft, a radical feminist of equal rights for women, was an inspiration for both the nineteenth-century and twentieth-century women's movements. She was born in London on April 27, 1759 and died September 10, 1797, giving birth to her daughter, Mary,(who later wrote the book Frankenstein). Wollstonecraft was not merely a woman's rights advocate. She asserted the innate rights of all people, whom she thought victims of a society that assigned people their roles, comforts, and satisfactions according to the false distinctions of class, age, and gender. At the age of 19, she left her home to make a life for herself. Over the years, she became a companion, seamstress, governess, schoolteacher and feminist. She was largely self-educated. In 1792, Mary wrote a Vindication of The Rights of Women. In it she describes the rights of women to equality of education and to civil opportunities. In the essay, she constantly compares men to women. Her comparisons range from their physical nature to their intelligence, and even down to the education that each sex receives. Wollstonecraft states, “In the government of the physical world it is observable that the female in point of strength is, in general, inferior to the male.”(Rights of Women) to show that women are inferior to men in physicality, and a number of areas throughout the essay, yet through it all she voices her concerns for the rights of women and how well deserved they are. The book-length essay, written in simple and direct language, was the first great feminist treatise.  In the Rights of Woman, Mary argues that true freedom necessitates equality of the sexes; claimed that intellect, or reason, is superior to emotion, or passion; seeks to persuade women to acquire strength of mind and body; and aims to convince women that what had traditionally been regarded as soft, “womanly” virtues are synonymous with weakness. In this day and age, what woman wants to be a footstool to men? We women are strong, independent and educated. We have set a path for ourselves where we don’t have to bow down to the feet of men anymore and do what is told. We have a mind of our own. It is sad to see that men still oppose to the rights of woman and expect women to have a mind set of before. Wollstonecraft advocated education as the key for women to achieve a sense of self-respect and a new self-image that can enable them to live to their full capabilities. She describes the ways in which women are conditioned through socialization her essay. In the Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir notes: “This has always been a man’s world, and none of the reasons that have been offered in explanation have seemed adequate” (De Beauvoir). De Beauvoir explains why these roles occur; women are conditioned to be feminine: “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman” (De Beauvoir). We see some of the same ideas articulated in Mary Wollstonecraft’s essay. . In the Eighteenth Century, femininity itself was intended to encompass all of the characteristics that man did not wish to attribute to himself. A woman was expected to be emotional, dainty, and helpless. A woman was thought to be incapable of taking care of herself and had few (if any) legal rights. A woman was expected to rely on a man because she lacked the ability to take care of herself. Any woman who had the gall to expect to be treated like a normal human being was thought not to know her place in such a world. In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft suggests that woman would be better off stripping herself of such demeaning limitations. Mary Wollstonecraft asks woman to rise above culturally imposed stereotypes to realize that she is not a lesser form of being than man. De Beauvoir (later) states that “Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with the absolute truth” (De Beauvoir). Writing from an...
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