Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft
Fall, 2006
Mary’s Life and Times
She was born 147 years after Rousseau, 13
years after Pestalozzi and 15 years earlier than
Johann Friedrich Herbart
 Born in London to a alcoholic father and an
Irish mother
 The whole family moved to Beverly since her
father inherited a farm
 Mary’s father lost all the inheritance on drinking
and gambling
 Mary attended a day school in Beverly where
she learned French and how to be a good wife
Mary’s Life and Times
Mary liked reading and writing at home and
showed interest in various social issues
 Her schooling stopped when her family moved
back to London
 Mary experienced violent headaches, gloom, and
nervous fevers, and symptoms of depression and
 She suffered depression her whole life
 She helped her sister Elsa to escape from her
husband after giving birth to a child
 She developed a close friendship with Fanny and
opened a girl’s school with her
 Fanny died during giving birth to a child
Mary’s Life and Times
 She
is the first self-support woman
author in history
 Famous works:
 Original
Stories for Children
 Reflections on the Revolution in France
 A Vindication of the Rights of Men
 A Vindication of the Rights of Women
(published this book anonymously, but
used her name in the second edition)
Mary’s Life and Times
Attacked aristocracy, privilege, power of rank,
and wealth as impediment of human freedom
 The Vindication of the Rights of Women is the
first frankly feminist manifesto; She was
considered a Revolutionary feminist
 The minds of women were no difference than
the minds of man
 She moved to Paris later because of an
involvement with a married man
 In Paris, she learned about people who
advocated the rights of women to vote, to
inherit property, and to have child custody
rights as divorcees
Mary’s Life and Times
Mary had an affair with Gilbert Imlay, an
American man
 Had a child, named after her dead friend,
Fanny, with Gilbert and eventually was
abandoned by him
 She had another affair with William Godwin
and persuaded him to marry her when she
was pregnant
 Mary died when giving birth to a child with
William just as her childhood friend, Fanny
Wollstonecraft’s Importance in Education
Two types of private schools: day school and
boarding school
 Advocated for government-supported public
 She disliked parents’ interference with school
 She believed that the form of public schools
can alleviate this problem and allow parents
and schools to work together
 She also had ideas about modern
kindergarten, industrial training, and Socratic
form of teaching
Wollstonecraft’s Importance in Education
She mocked the ideas of the cultural icon at
her time, Rousseau.
 In Emile, Rousseau seemed to believe that
there should be distinct education for boys
and girls
 Agreed with Locke about the mind as a blank
 Promoted an education for women that is
beyond preparing them for family life and
dependence and instead cultivate their minds
Sample Writings
 “The
good effects resulting from
attention to private education will ever
be very confined, and the parent who
really puts his own hand to the plow, will
always, in some degree, be
disappointed, till education becomes a
grand national concern”
Sample Writings Cont.
 “…Nor
will women ever fulfill the
peculiar duties of the sexes, till they
become enlightened citizens, till they
become free by being enabled to earn
their own subsistence, independent of
men; in the same manner, I mean to
prevent misconstruction, as one man is
independent of another”
Sample Writings Cont.
“Nay marriage will never be held sacred ‘til
women, by being brought up with men, are
prepared to be their companions rather than their
 “…for it will be a long time, I fear, before the
world will be so far enlightened that parents, only
anxious to render their children virtuous, shall
allow them to choose companions for life
 “…women must be allowed to found their virtue
on knowledge, which is scarcely possible unless
they be educated by the same pursuits as
Resources on Wollstonecraft
Resources on Mary Wollstonecraft Cont.