Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Response to “Emile” Written by Rousseau

Topics: Gender equality, Women's rights, Mary Wollstonecraft Pages: 6 (2563 words) Published: December 11, 2011
Mary Wollstonecraft was an inspiration and an enormous impact in the women’s rights movement in the 19th and 20th centuries. She led and guided the way for countless feminists as her life progressed. By having such a strong, powerful voice on her opinion and views of the rights of women, she pioneered the fight for equality between man and woman. Mary Wollstonecraft wrote and published “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” in 1792 as a declaration of woman’s civil liberties to equality of education and to civil opportunities. She had written her assertion of equality in response to numerous works that focused on female conduct and women’s education that was written by men whom lived during the late 18th century. Enlightenment thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau, composer of the famous “Emile”, is recognized to be the most well-known and significant influences that triggered Wollstonecraft to respond by constructing her periodical of justice. Mary’s creation of “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” was nearly direct criticism towards the beliefs of Rousseau, and she argues firm illustrating her will for freedom, equality and no limitations. The great feminist Mary Wollstonecraft was born in Spitalfields, London in 1759. She was the second of the seven children of Edward John Wollstonecraft and Elizabeth Dixon to John. Mary endured a difficult childhood and often had to protect her mother from the drunken rage of her father. Her father had inherited a substantial amount of money from his father who was a master weaver, but he mismanaged his families’ finances critically. As a child, Mary’s intellect allowed her to see the “total subjection of a decent woman” (Nixon) and this knowledge stayed with her and heartened her future as the first feminist. At age nineteen, Mary became the companion to a Mrs. Dawson and lived in Bath for a short time. Mary returned home when she was informed of her mother's illness and subsequent death. After her mother’s passing, she helped her sister Eliza escape a miserable marriage by hiding her from her brutal husband until a legal separation was arranged. Under the laws in that time, Eliza had to leave her young son with his father, and the son died before his first birthday. In a desperate attempt to find a way financial support Mary, her sister’s Eliza and Everin, and Mary’s friend Fanny Blood opened up a school in Newington Green. A few years later Fanny Blood and her baby died during childbirth, Mary after closed the financially-struggling school. It was during this period that she was encouraged to set down the doctrine she had evolved on how to teach girls and soon she wrote “Thoughts on the Education of Daughters” in early 1787. This was the beginning to Wollstonecraft’s short, greatly influential life but was hardly near the last time she would assert her ideas to the public. Wollstonecraft continued to strive for her success even through the distresses she faced in her life. Because of Mary’s oppressed dept. she became the governess in the family of Lord Kingsborough, and lived most of the time in Ireland. After she was dismissed quickly as governess, she settled in George Street, London and became determined to take up a literary career. It was at this point that she read Rousseau's Emile and embraced its values of individuality and sensibility. She then worked as translator and literary advisor to Joseph Johnson, the publisher of radical texts. In this facility she became acquainted with and accepted among some of the most advanced circles of London intellectual and radical thoughts and became a regular contributor of articles and reviews. After reviewing a work by Richard Price on English patriotism and love of country, she was discouraged to see an attack made upon him. Edmund Burke wrote "Reflections on the Revolution in France” which led to her publishing the “Vindication of the Rights of Men” in 1790. Mary was furious Burke, whom had once defended the American colonies so...

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Johnson, Patricia Altenbernd. On Wollstonecraft. Wadsworth Philosophers Series. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2000.
Kelly, G. (1995) Revolutionary Feminism: The Mind and Career of Mary Wollstonecraft, New York: St. Martin 's.
Lindemann, Kate. "Mary Wollstonecraft." History of Women Philosophers. Vol. 3. Mary Ellen Waithe, ed. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic, 1991.
Nixon, Edna. Mary Wollstonecraft: Her Life and Times. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1971
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Wollstonecraft, Mary (1993) A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, London: Penguin. Full electronic text:
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