Mary Wollstonecraft: Mother Of Feminism
Through history we learn about great heroes or an enlightenment figure of a certain time. I have chosen an enlightenment figure from 1759- 1797. Mary Wollstonecraft was a feminist writer and a very intellectual woman. She has an impact on women and this is why I have chosen her. Now to jump back to where it all began, the birth of Mary Wollstonecraft.
Mary was born on April 27, 1759 in Spitalfields, United Kingdom, to her parents Elizabeth Dixon and Edward John Wollstonecraft. Her father was a very abusive man when she was younger and he could barely keep up the job for the farm. After Mary’s mom died in 1780, she set out to live out her own life. In 1784 Wollstonecraft, her sister Eliza, and her friend Fanny, established a school in Newington Green. After this she wrote her first pamphlet called “ Thoughts On The Education of Daughters (Bio.com. A&E Networks Television). Soon Mary’s closest friend Fanny died in 1785.
In 1792 Mary went to visit a friend in France and ended up meeting a man by the name of Captain Gilbert Imlay. He is an American timber merchant and adventurer. Captain Gilbert took away and Mary soon became pregnant. Mary and Gilbert named the baby Fanny after Mary’s best friend who had died a while ago. While taking care of her baby, Mary wrote a critique on the French Revolution with great detail and opinion. After traveling in Scandinavia Gilbert left Mary(Bio.com. A&E Networks Television). Also during this time she wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women. This was her major idea in her lifetime. In this she stated, “ women and men She declared that both women and men were human beings endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. She called for women to become educated” (A Vindication of the Rights of Women-Mary Wollstonecraft). After their travels in Scandinavia, Captain Gilbert Imlay left Mary. Later Mary met William Godwin and they started a relationship together. William Godwin is the founder of philosophical anarchism. Both Mary and William didn’t believe in marriage, but do to Mary’s second pregnancy they decided to get married. In 1797. Their daughter was born, but ten day later Wollstonecraft died do to complications of her daughters birth.
Mary Wollstonecraft was known as “first feminist” or “mother of feminism”. She would always find the natural talents of women and the women should not mee measured towards men’s standards. Mary believed that women are independent human beings who are just as strong-willed as men. This is why she has written these books, pamphlets, etcetera because she wanted to show how much women have and can help the world develop. Her work also showed feeling between men and women in a relationship (About.com Education. N.p., n.d.).
One of Mary Wollstonecraft’s most important idea was the difference and inequality of men and women. She strived to show how different, but yet how similar men and women are. She mostly expressed her ideas in the form of books. She expressed in these that she wanted to explain the rights of women and how some should be changed or modified. One of her books she wrote was called “ Letters in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark”. This book is twenty-five letters written all together. They have topics like sociological reflections on Scandinavia. This is just one example of many more topics(Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d.).
Another topic Mary Wollstonecraft touched on was the education of women. This had been a major topic around her time and had a big impact on women. In one of Mary’s book she described in one of her books the importance of women’s education. Mary argued and fought for what she believed in. She proposed idea after idea. She finally came up with an idea that surprised everyone. She said that boys and girls should get the same education and be taught together. People thought it was nonsense that their should be co-education and many other educational thinkers thought the same thing. People said that if women got educations and became docile people, that they would lose power over their husbands in the house. Mary was furious after hearing this from people. She stated that women don’t need power over their husband, but power over themselves. (http://infed.org)
Directly quoted from one of Mary’s books, “The most perfect education, in my opinion, is such an exercise of the understanding as is best calculated to strengthen the body and form the heart. Or, in other words, to enable the individual to attain such habits of virtue as will render it independent. In fact, it is a farce to call any being virtuous whose virtues do not result from the exercise of its own reason. This was Rousseau’s opinion respecting men: I extend it to women (Mary Wollstonecraft – A Vindication of the Rights of Woman).” Mary Wollstonecraft thought thought co-educational day schools were a great thing. She said there would be lessons and lots of physical exercise both free and organized (http://infed.org).
Mary Wollstonecraft left a huge legacy behind. Every women and men equality topic she discussed in her books and fought for are still being debated today. She has made history as a feminist and had a major impact on women. Her legacy was shown through her husband’s memoirs about her. William Godwin helped to help keep her legacy going and to help their daughters know how much of an impact she was(Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d.).
After her death there was still much interest with her work. Her book Vindication of the Rights of Women was used during the women’s suffrage movement. It was also used during the time of the fight for women to vote. The 1970s was the time when Mary fought for equality of sexes which is a big thing around the world from then to current time We are still trying to level out the playing field between women and men in the world. Now her recent work before her death have been the focal point. Her work had an impact on people such as Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott. Today Mary Wollstonecraft is recognized around the world for her impact during women’s movements. Even now she is there with us to fight. Mary started her career very well in England and now is a global icon for women’s movements today. I would say that she definitely lived out her years as a feminist writer and empowerment woman. She served her due and now it’s up to us to finish the job for her.
Mary Wollstonecraft fought for co-educational schools and we got them. She fought for women’s education and not for us women to just be the glue to the household. She wanted us to make something out of ourselves to become the women we will grow up to be. Mary wanted equality between men and women. There have been major changes like women getting to vote, but there is still a lot of work to do and I know Mary Wollstonecraft will still be a legacy to women today and always (http://www.csun.edu/).
Learn from me, if not by my precepts, than by my example, how dangerous is the pursuit of knowledge and how much happier is that man who believes his native town to be the world than he who aspires to be greater than his nature will allow (-Mary Wollstonecraft).