Mary Wollstonecraft’s 250th birthday

// 27 April 2009

Mary Wollstonecraft was born 250 years ago today. Celebrate by reading her famous tract, The Vindication of the Rights of Women.

Or maybe one of her two novels, both, confusingly, titled Mary. According to Wikipedia:

In her first novel, Mary: A Fiction (1788), the eponymous heroine is forced into a loveless marriage for economic reasons; she fulfils her desire for love and affection outside of marriage with two passionate romantic friendships, one with a woman and one with a man. Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman (1798), an unfinished novel published posthumously and often considered Wollstonecraft’s most radical feminist work,[81] revolves around the story of a woman imprisoned in an insane asylum by her husband; like Mary, Maria also finds fulfilment outside of marriage, in an affair with a fellow inmate and a friendship with one of her keepers. Neither of Wollstonecraft’s novels depict successful marriages, although she posits such relationships in the Rights of Woman. At the end of Mary, the heroine believes she is going “to that world where there is neither marrying, nor giving in marriage,”[82] presumably a positive state of affairs.[83]

London readers can also check out the Mother of Feminism art exhibition at Islington & Newington Green Unitarians.

Comments From You

Charlotte // Posted 27 April 2009 at 9:12 pm

To be the nerd that points this out, Islington & Newington Green Unitarians have also furnished Mary with her own twitter account

Steph // Posted 27 April 2009 at 11:26 pm

I have to say, I didn’t know this anniversary was coming up. It’s ridiculous that this was so poorly publicised, yet you couldn’t escape from Darwin’s 200th. Wollstonecraft has had just as much an effect of human life as him. It makes me so angry how feminism is just ignored by mainstream media.

Deborah // Posted 28 April 2009 at 1:06 am

This is my favourite image of Mary Wollstonecraft. She looks so thoughtful and studious, and wise.

Roberta Wedge // Posted 28 April 2009 at 3:05 am

I’ve compiled some recent responses to the anniversary:

There is an article by an Australian law professor, tying Mary to Afghanistan, and an academic blog post by an American historian who specialises in sibling relationships. And that’s just for starters.

Rumbold // Posted 28 April 2009 at 11:12 am

Readers might want to check out her full biography here:

Sabre // Posted 28 April 2009 at 2:28 pm

@ steph

While I agree with you that this could have been better publicised, I don’t think Mary Wollstonecraft’s impact on the world was as great as Darwin’s.

@ Jess

I like the image you used on this post. I saw the painting at the British Library’s recent exhibition on human rights. The caption explained how very unusual it was at that time for a woman to be depicted as a) staring back at the viewer and b) doing something academic i.e. reading.

Steph // Posted 28 April 2009 at 7:37 pm

@ Sabre

Ok, well I may have exaggerated a little bit :P

But her impact, as the mother of feminism, and thus responsible for all that spawned from it, has been monumental, whereas Darwin wasn’t even the first to actually work out evolution.

Elmo // Posted 24 October 2009 at 9:14 pm

I just finished “a vindication on the rights of women”! and bloody hell, it was one of the heaviest things iv’e ever read! it took me ages! but definitely well worth it, she is an inspiration.

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