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A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN: WITH STRICTURES ON POLITICAL AND MORAL SUBJECTS (1792), written by the 18th-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. In it, Wollstonecraft responds to those educational and political theorists of the 18th century who did not believe women should have an education. She argues tha A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN: WITH STRICTURES ON POLITICAL AND MORAL SUBJECTS (1792), written by the 18th-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. In it, Wollstonecraft responds to those educational and political theorists of the 18th century who did not believe women should have an education. She argues that women ought to have an education commensurate with their position in society, claiming that women are essential to the nation because they educate its children and because they could be "companions" to their husbands, rather than mere wives. Instead of viewing women as ornaments to society or property to be traded in marriage, Wollstonecraft maintains that they are human beings deserving of the same fundamental rights as men. Wollstonecraft was prompted to write the Rights of Woman after reading Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord's 1791 report to the French National Assembly, which stated that women should only receive a domestic education; she used her commentary on this specific event to launch a broad attack against sexual double standards and to indict men for encouraging women to indulge in excessive emotion. Wollstonecraft wrote the Rights of Woman hurriedly to respond directly to ongoing events; she intended to write a more thoughtful second volume but died before completing it. While Wollstonecraft does call for equality between the sexes in particular areas of life, such as morality, she does not explicitly state that men and women are equal. Her ambiguous statements regarding the equality of the sexes have since made it difficult to classify Wollstonecraft as a modern feminist, particularly since the word and the concept were unavailable to her. Although it is commonly assumed now that the Rights of Woman was unfavourably received, this is a modern misconception based on the belief that Wollstonecraft was as reviled during her lifetime as she became after the publication of William Godwin's Memoirs of the Author of A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN (1798). The Rights of Woman was actually well received when it was first published in 1792. One biographer has called it "perhaps the most original book of [Wollstonecraft's] century". (more on www.wisehouse-classics.com)


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A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN: WITH STRICTURES ON POLITICAL AND MORAL SUBJECTS (1792), written by the 18th-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. In it, Wollstonecraft responds to those educational and political theorists of the 18th century who did not believe women should have an education. She argues tha A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN: WITH STRICTURES ON POLITICAL AND MORAL SUBJECTS (1792), written by the 18th-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. In it, Wollstonecraft responds to those educational and political theorists of the 18th century who did not believe women should have an education. She argues that women ought to have an education commensurate with their position in society, claiming that women are essential to the nation because they educate its children and because they could be "companions" to their husbands, rather than mere wives. Instead of viewing women as ornaments to society or property to be traded in marriage, Wollstonecraft maintains that they are human beings deserving of the same fundamental rights as men. Wollstonecraft was prompted to write the Rights of Woman after reading Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord's 1791 report to the French National Assembly, which stated that women should only receive a domestic education; she used her commentary on this specific event to launch a broad attack against sexual double standards and to indict men for encouraging women to indulge in excessive emotion. Wollstonecraft wrote the Rights of Woman hurriedly to respond directly to ongoing events; she intended to write a more thoughtful second volume but died before completing it. While Wollstonecraft does call for equality between the sexes in particular areas of life, such as morality, she does not explicitly state that men and women are equal. Her ambiguous statements regarding the equality of the sexes have since made it difficult to classify Wollstonecraft as a modern feminist, particularly since the word and the concept were unavailable to her. Although it is commonly assumed now that the Rights of Woman was unfavourably received, this is a modern misconception based on the belief that Wollstonecraft was as reviled during her lifetime as she became after the publication of William Godwin's Memoirs of the Author of A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN (1798). The Rights of Woman was actually well received when it was first published in 1792. One biographer has called it "perhaps the most original book of [Wollstonecraft's] century". (more on www.wisehouse-classics.com)

30 review for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (Wisehouse Classics - Original 1792 Edition)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sean Barrs

    Wollstonecraft is not passionate; she does not offer any inspiring words or flowery language. Wollstonecraft writes with no embellishment or artistry; yet, her words are commanding and exceedingly persuasive because what she does have is cold, hard, logic. And she knows it. “My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone.” She ref Wollstonecraft is not passionate; she does not offer any inspiring words or flowery language. Wollstonecraft writes with no embellishment or artistry; yet, her words are commanding and exceedingly persuasive because what she does have is cold, hard, logic. And she knows it. “My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone.” She refused to appeal to the sensibilities and imaginations of her readers. Instead she wished to display her rational intellect, an intellect free of flights of fancy and one that had the ability to access the situation in all its reality. She argued that women, in their current state, had no means of proving their worth. She believed that women were physically inferior to men, but in terms of intellect they were equal and that they so desperately needed a noble, edifying, pursuit in which to show this. Wollstonecraft offers many compelling arguments in here, though for me her most logical pertains to human progress; she argues that without education it will simply stop: a very true point. Humanity needs to continue to develop, but this is impossible if only half of humanity is educated. She argues that women cannot teach their children if they in turn are not educated. How can she impart any wisdom or teach any sense of patriotism if she has not learnt to love mankind? Wollstonecraft believed that the key to overturning sexism began and ended with education. “Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience.” Due to the lack of education women recieved, Wollstonecraft suggests that they have been rendered wretched and weak. They are merely classified as females rather than members of mankind. She wants to see women take on manly qualities, well, traits associated with manhood. She wanted to break the oppressive gender boundaries that limited the faculty of her sex. As such, she was satirised by many novelists and critics for being manly herself. The ironic thing is that such a label only serves to achieve what she is arguing for. She wanted women to be many, to be equal to men. However, Wollstonecraft was at times very condescending towards women. Whilst she does not blame them for their predicament, that blame lays at the door of the patriarchy and men in general, she does chastise them for not trying to break through their shackles. Though what she fails to recognise is that for many women they do not have the benefit of looking beyond earning enough money to get through the week and looking after their families. Wollstonecraft is distinctively middle-class, and as such, at times, she lacks the ability to empathise with the reality of the situation some women will find themselves in. She also undervalues the lessons and teachings uneducated people can still pass on to their children, the value of hard work and honesty for example. Such minor issues with her writing by no means downplay the power and logic behind her arguments, arguments that would go on to inspire the next generation of writers (including her daughter and her daughter’s husband, no doubt.) I also noticed some very particular phrasing that was later mirrored almost verbatim in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Wollstonecraft’s ideas were carried further by a medium she deplored, the novel. She really underestimated its power as a learning device. Wollstonecraft is certainly a powerful literary figure to be admired, and, this, as a seminal work in the development of feminism is, certainly, a work of undying success and potency.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Minh

    OH MY GOD , this uncoventional, feminist woman is mother of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, who was one of my favorite author only after Rowling, Wilde, Plath...etc.? SHELLEY, you never tell me how cool your mother was!!! . I thought we were best friends.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Warwick

    Reading this messy, brilliant book gave me that strange impression you sometimes get with essayists – of encountering a perfectly modern mind that is trapped in the past, looking around with modern sensibilities and baffled by what it sees. The effect now is not one of genius, but merely of contemporary common sense, applied somehow, magically, anachronistically. At one point, during a close reading of Rousseau, Wollstonecraft adds an asterisk, and comments simply in a footnote: ‘What nonsense!’ Reading this messy, brilliant book gave me that strange impression you sometimes get with essayists – of encountering a perfectly modern mind that is trapped in the past, looking around with modern sensibilities and baffled by what it sees. The effect now is not one of genius, but merely of contemporary common sense, applied somehow, magically, anachronistically. At one point, during a close reading of Rousseau, Wollstonecraft adds an asterisk, and comments simply in a footnote: ‘What nonsense!’ Here you have the book in two words: a smart woman looking around at late-eighteenth-century London, and saying, What nonsense! Yet despite the timelessness, its context is important. A couple of years before this came out, Burke had published his famous conservative critique of popular uprisings, Reflections on the Revolution in France, and Mary Wollstonecraft had been more or less the first to react, tearing off A Vindication of the Rights of Men just a few weeks later. She would be followed by many others (not least her occasional dinner companion Thomas Paine), but while the rest of them wittered on about inherent freedoms, she was the only one to look around and consider the novelty of extending those freedoms to the other half of the species. So this follow-up was written in a specifically revolutionary context, and was intended, as she says, ‘to effect a revolution in female manners’. This general ‘down with the nobs’, anti-aristocratic sensibility is for Wollstonecraft a handy analogue for all that is wrong with female socialisation. She equates women with rich military officers, whose primary concern is to look dashing, or with titled nobility – for ‘wealth and female softness equally tend to debase mankind, and are produced by the same cause’. A king is always a king – and a woman always a woman: his authority and her sex, ever stand between them and rational converse. The point of similarity is the fact that both women and monarchs are pictured as separate, higher beings by ordinary men – but in the case of women it's even more pernicious because it's based on an underlying assertion of inferiority. A woman is ‘exalt[ed …] on a quicksand’ (view spoiler)[this reminded me, vertiginously, of Stoya talking about being ‘put on a pedestal in a trash can’ (hide spoiler)] and polarised as either ‘a slave or a despot’ (a dichotomy still much in evidence today). She sees nothing but hypocrisy in the ‘paternal solicitude’ of men ‘who outwardly respect and inwardly despise the weak creatures whom they thus sport with’, since the angelic qualities which women are supposed to possess are, in fact, just euphemisms of their subordinate status. Today we might talk of ‘benevolent sexism’; Wollstonecraft talks about the ‘negative virtues’ ascribed to women, namely: patience, docility, good-humour, and flexibility; virtues incompatible with any vigorous exertion of intellect. ‘I […] deny the existence of sexual virtues,’ she says. (‘Sexual’ at this time meant ‘belonging to the sex’, i.e. ‘female, feminine’.) Virtues are universal or they are meaningless. But it's significant that she is calling for a revolution in female manners, since her main target is the women who aid and abet this behaviour. Like not a few feminist writers after her, Wollstonecraft wants to defend women from the unfair position they've been put in, but she is often more animated, one feels, by frustration at all the vapid bitches around her. She has no time whatever for women who have ‘chosen rather to be short-lived queens than labour to obtain the sober pleasures that arise from equality’, or who refuse to talk to men on intellectual even ground. ‘What arts have I not seen silly women use to interrupt by flirtation […] a rational conversation which made the men forget that they were pretty women.’ Often, to her disgust, this involves playing up their physical weaknesses for flirtatious effect. In the most trifling dangers they cling to their support, with parasitical tenacity, piteously demanding succour; and their natural protector extends his arms, or lifts up his voice, to guard the lovely trembler – from what? Perhaps the frown of an old cow, or the jump of a mouse; a rat, would be a serious danger. This is very funny. Frequently these critiques sound startlingly modern: So ludicrous, in fact, do these ceremonies appear to me, that I scarcely am able to govern my muscles, when I see a man start with eager, and serious solicitude, to lift a handkerchief, or shut a door, when the lady could have done it herself, had she only moved a pace or two. I can get that door myself! Who knew that was an argument that went back to 1792? It can be disheartening to realise, as you read this, how many of these issues are still with us more than two centuries later. But at other times you're made to feel, with a jolt, how much things have changed. She asks rhetorically at one point why there are no women who have become famous for their own merits and successes, for instance, and her speculation about women earning their own money is, for her time, pure utopian fantasy: How many women thus waste life away the prey of discontent, who might have practised as physicians, regulated a farm, managed a shop, and stood erect, supported by their own industry […] ? In the end, though, she understands exactly why women behave as they do – because that's how they've been taught. ‘[C]an they deserve blame for acting according to principles so constantly inculcated?’ she demands. After all, the regal homage which [women] receive is so intoxicating, that till the manners of the times are changed, and formed on more reasonable principles, it may be impossible to convince them that the illegitimate power, which they obtain, by degrading themselves, is a curse… …as reaction to the book would prove. She sums things up with admirable clarity. ‘If men be demi-gods – why let us serve them!’ If women are truly subservient animals, ‘it will be expedient to open a fresh trade with Russia for whips’. But if not…perhaps we can start acting like we're all human beings? Wollstonecraft considers all of these social problems, ultimately, to be the result of ‘firmly rooted prejudices which sensualists have planted’; in other words, women are the way they are because it's more gratifying to men's sexual desires. Behind gender inequality lurks her bogeyman: ‘want of chastity in men’. Frustratingly for modern readers, she concedes that men ‘are certainly more under the influence of their appetites than women’ (a belief that had only emerged relatively recently), but whereas today our instinct would be to destigmatise freer sexual expression in women, for Wollstonecraft the solution is rather to suppress sexual expression in everyone. This leads her to some strange places. She regrets ‘the depravity of the appetite which brings the sexes together’, and urges married women to ‘calmly let passion subside into friendship’. The ‘master and mistress of a family ought not to continue to love each other with passion,’ she asserts (which would certainly lead to some interesting self-help books today. Has your relationship lost the spark? GOOD). The armies of sex workers in Georgian London upset her; she refers to them, with barely-disguised revulsion, as ‘literally speaking, standing dishes to which every glutton may have access’. But her call for reserve goes much further than this: she also inveighs against women living together, talking too casually (she is appalled by French women who speak openly about having indigestion), and generally being ‘too intimate’. Her image of an ideal woman's life builds to a vision that now seems nauseatingly insipid: Her children have her love, and her brightest hopes are beyond the grave, where her imagination often strays. […] The task of her life thus fulfilled, she calmly waits for the sleep of death. Oh great, the sleep of death! You can see that Wollstonecraft has somehow argued herself into this awkward polarisation, whereby reason and intellect are good, and everything to do with feeling and emotion is consequently bad. This false dichotomy is something that feminism took a long, long time to shake off, and in some ways maybe still struggles with. It's particularly interesting, because the events of Mary Wollstonecraft's own private life (she was shortly to suggest a ménage to Henry Fuseli and his wife, before going off to Paris to have a baby with someone out of wedlock) would belie these principles so comprehensively. So the impression in Woman is not of sexual desire's being written off, but rather of its being repressed, forced down, in a way that makes the book deeply psychologically interesting, even while it weakens its politics. For modern readers, there is a lot in here that can be frustrating – her religiosity, her occasional flights of flowery rhetoric – but the overall impression is of a kindred spirit trying her best to use tired old language to say completely new things. And the arguments are still totally compelling. That this book was produced when and where it was already seems like a miracle; that it should be so funny and smart and engaging is more than there was any right to expect.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    Idly I wondered if to "kiss the rod" in the context of women's behaviour after being chastised by her husband was meant to be a double entendre - but probably not as she is high minded, but luckily I made my idle observation in a dejected off- hand way because later she says Respect for man, as man, is the foundation of every noble sentiment. How much more modest is the libertine who obeys the call of appetite or fancy than the lewd joker who sets the table in a roar! (p232), so shame on you if Idly I wondered if to "kiss the rod" in the context of women's behaviour after being chastised by her husband was meant to be a double entendre - but probably not as she is high minded, but luckily I made my idle observation in a dejected off- hand way because later she says Respect for man, as man, is the foundation of every noble sentiment. How much more modest is the libertine who obeys the call of appetite or fancy than the lewd joker who sets the table in a roar! (p232), so shame on you if you were tempted to smile at the thought of rod kissing. I did allow myself to be intimidated in to putting off reading this book which has been languishing on the shelf since last year despite reading her impressively passionate Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark in part by the terrifying title - vindication, rights, woman. All suggestive of great earnestness and grappling with fundamental issues, small wonder, I plead, that I allowed myself to be distracted by more lascivious and light hearted reading. Though plainly Mary W. is also an absolutely sweet person and if one was, through odd circumstances, transported back in time to 1790s London one would be sure to drag her in off the street from the rain , push her into an armchair by the fire, give her tea (view spoiler)[ only though with sugar not made by slave labour (hide spoiler)] , a slab of fruit cake and a reviving glass of Marsala or Maderia wine. Obviously I am disabled in various ways in reviewing Wollstonecraft, on account of sex and age (view spoiler)[ one needs ideally to be a child of the 1770s or 1760s to be at one with its flow (hide spoiler)] and expectation. The last maybe is the most difficult for the idea of "Feminism" will hang over the reader, but she is Wollstoncraftian, and more besides, she is Mary (view spoiler)[ a woman with her own distinct experiences and obsessions(view spoiler)[ inescapably breast-feeding which leaks increasingly into the latter part of the text (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] , not the several hundred following years of thought, experience and expectation that come after her. From fairly early on she seemed to me to be standing at a cultural crossroads, in what she writes one can see the currents which will flow off in some odd directions, her instance on the cultivation of virtue and sports seems to prefigure Muscular Christianity and Jolly Hockey sticks, her views on the centrality of the middle class - the upper class too feminised and Frenchified - the lower obviously too low coupled with (the deep roots of Brexit) her vehement ( & more than slightly surprising considering her politics) anti-continental prejudices is pure Jane Eyre, and yet the broader context of this work is her support for the declaration of the rights of man in revolutionary Paris. In that anti-continental feeling and her horror of Popery (view spoiler)[ I do wonder quite why anti-catholic feeling was so strong, did people seriously believe that given half a chance papists would be slitting the throats of all the protestants of a night? The expression of feeling comes across as that extreme and strongly held (hide spoiler)] , taking me back twenty years to hearing the late Iain Paisley resplendent in his orange sash on television, she drives me like a steady drummer back towards the pages of Linda Colley's Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 Her desire for woman to assert herself through virtue and through virtue and motherhood to assume or earn a familial and social centrality seems to prefigure The Angel in the House and a rather primly respectable Victorianism. Curiously alongside her delight in breast-feeding mothers full of joy watching their children grow to sensible British adulthood is a horror of sex surprising to find in a mother of two (view spoiler)[ in a mother of one fair enough, allowance can be made for innocent experimentation, but with two plainly she would have known what was involved (hide spoiler)] she hoists the flag early of no sex please, we're British reminding me of a line in George Mike's How to be an alien to the effect of that people on the continental mainland have sex-lives, while in Britain there are hot water bottles. While I haven't spent a day with binoculars trained on the windows of neighbouring houses I'm dubious that people are, or were, so busily engaged in copulation as to cause mass miscarriages and barrenness in women, I imagine her strong distaste for intimacy between husband and wife and celebration of chastity (view spoiler)[ rather confusingly sitting alongside her celebration of motherhood (hide spoiler)] reflects her experience of her parent's married life. While on the one hand it is quite fun to see so sensible a woman being silly, on the other hand in her vision of men and women as sexual beings and the social value of repression and sublimation one can see her as thinking along similar lines to Freud (view spoiler)[ though earlier and with less cocaine, and with no sense of the potential damage involved in repression, here we're still in the days when repression was good for you, character building no doubt (hide spoiler)] . At its root it is quite a powerful vision of human nature and society. In addition to being a forerunner of Mary Whitehouse, some other elements remain contemporary, her picture of women only valued for their transient youthful beauty could with small changes to her eighteenth century habits of expression could have come straight from a newspaper column about the disappearance of women of a certain age (view spoiler)[ I won't say which on account of it being impolite to publicly discuss a woman's age (hide spoiler)] from television screens. More darkly I felt her picture of emancipated woman not as a person at ease but ideally forever on guard and dedicated to serious thinking who forcefully rejects with outrage all fripperies as abominations devoting herself to her breast-fed children was also modern - the great pillar of shoulds and social requirements towering over the small naked figure of the actual individual trying to live their lives as best they can. And if you don't want to be, or can't be, a breast- feeding mother then Mary Wollstonecraft is not going to be forgiving. Perhaps dark also in her criticism of female behaviour that doesn't come up to her high minded ideals. The rights and wrongs of woman's behaviour and dress are never to be a private matter it seems, but always an issue of burning public interest. Actually as a man reading a book like this one is enormously reassured because in her account its all about the men. Man oppresses woman, only man has the potential to emancipate (view spoiler)[ the explicit comparison to slavery is made several times, both in terms of legal status and in the lingering mental impact (hide spoiler)] woman, woman cannot free herself - which may I suppose be simply the fairly sober reality of woman's lack of legal status in eighteenth century Britain, man is at the centre anyhow. Wollstonecraft's portrayal is dialectical, man and woman are in a dynamic relationship but one based on (male) false consciousness - man thinks he is doing himself a favour by raising and limiting woman to simply be a voluptuous sexual companion but by doing so he deprives himself of a sturdy and sensible mother to his children, who won't be out all night gambling and boozing or tyrannising the household due to her petty ignorances or hanging about around astrologers. If in her sensible and reasonable views on the monarchy, British system of government, and tax policy, she remains sadly considerably ahead of our times, in other ways radicalism withheld is an important theme of her work. Liberation is for the middle class woman, and her liberation requires the continued drudgery of lower class woman (view spoiler)[ still I suppose a live issue (hide spoiler)] . Still one of the many problems in opening your trap and allowing words to tumble out, or in putting pen to paper is that others can see potentials and possibilities that you yourself (view spoiler)[ not meaning you of course honoured Goodreader (hide spoiler)] are blind to. And in her message of emancipation of woman as good for man we can see the potential that the liberation of the lower classes must logically be equally good for all society, the same arguments for the release of talent and the strengthening of the individual must hold. In this way the potential of Wollstonecraft's work is bigger and more impressive than her written argument. Her sense of the constriction of women's lives primarily as a phenomenon of mentalité is particularly powerful, merely changing laws is insufficient and silly, it is our interior culture which requires Reformation. This in the way of some pre-modern writing is a little unstructured and so under powered as a result she looses her self early on up a dead end with a discussion of man's natural dominance over woman as a result of strength, as though among men strength ever played a role in dominance - when was the undisputed champion boxer Pontif Maximus, when the faster runner chief Judge or mightiest weight lifter King? Softer skills of persuasion and cunning or more vaguely of charisma (view spoiler)[ often indicated by being the abandoned child of an unmarried teen-aged mother (hide spoiler)] are more typical of our leaders than muscles. I feel I've rather run around here and I don't think any amount of tea will get the review properly afloat again. In terms of the argument, the Rights of Man, and the ink fought wars fought in the British press over the rights and woeful wrongs of the French Revolution are unspoken in the background. Indeed this book is one soldier in that battle. Nor is Wollenstonecraft ever explicit about what the Rights of Woman are, though she is explicit that this is about Middle-class women, not all women. Woman is enslaved and educated into a limited culture of dependence and sensuality, the answer to her mind is universal primary mixed sex education (view spoiler)[ with social segregation from the age of nine with trade schools for lower class children (hide spoiler)] , well after a hundred odd years of that I'd say in relation to her hope in the trans-formative power of education that optimists are terribly nice people, but I'm glad I'm not one of them. Her view is slightly curious in that early on she sees the inferior status of woman as a social phenomena, perpetuated through social structures, nor does she see any potential conflict between child rearing and middle-class women having professional careers - but then she assumes a dependant servant class. Any review is going to be slightly unfair in that she originally envisioned her polemic as a multi volume work, typically enough maybe this was the only part which was completed, had she written her heart out, no doubt she'd have thrown up other issues and answers. taught only to please, women are always on the watch to please, and with true heroic ardour endeavour to gain hearts merely to resign or spurn them when the victory is decided and conspicuous (p147) For such women who seek to risk the path of self-emancipation Wollstonecraft recommends (view spoiler)[alongside mother hood and breast-feeding(view spoiler)[ and really her pictures of ruddy chubby children, and stalwart mothers are endearing (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] gardening, natural philosophy, and literature - though biographies in preference to romances(view spoiler)[There is a long section criticising books and writers she doesn't approve of for their constricting views of woman -first and foremost Rousseau (view spoiler)[ I can't say I'm convinced that England was awash in the 1790s with the influence of Rousseau, the whole section felt like a battle with the pygmies (view spoiler)[ with all due respects to the pygmies who I know did their best against the Cranes (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] . She doesn't like that private vices might be public virtues, for her virtue seeds virtue. So her's is an austere vision, with rights come duties, most demandingly towards oneself, rarely can a vision of freedom have entailed so much work, the playful rococo gives way to sharp and simple lines, of profound moral seriousness & weight.

  5. 4 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    3.5-4★ “. . . as blind obedience is ever sought for by power, tyrants and sensualists are in the right when they endeavour to keep women in the dark, because the former only want slaves, and the latter a play-thing.” I saw reference several times to Mary Wollstonecraft around International Women’s Day recently and thought I should find this book. I read and enjoyed about a third of it, but I eventually got bogged down in the repletition and the language. The English literary style of the late 1700 3.5-4★ “. . . as blind obedience is ever sought for by power, tyrants and sensualists are in the right when they endeavour to keep women in the dark, because the former only want slaves, and the latter a play-thing.” I saw reference several times to Mary Wollstonecraft around International Women’s Day recently and thought I should find this book. I read and enjoyed about a third of it, but I eventually got bogged down in the repletition and the language. The English literary style of the late 1700s is not easily skimmed, and I really just wanted a sense of her propositions, not chapter and verse. I know I didn't read it all, but I read enough to recognise its importance and her passion, for which I give her four stars. She certainly lets the fellows have it with both barrels! She frequently says that what might pass for an acceptable lifestyle in the seraglio (harem) is hardly an appropriate goal for young women. She rails against the injustice of inequality of power. The power of the rich over the poor, men over women, and men over soldiers who go straight into the military with no other education. She hopes women won’t take offense at her appealing to their good sense and seeming to overlook their feminine attractions. “My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their FASCINATING graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone.” If that’s all women ever learn – how to be simpering coquettes, then no wonder men tire of them eventually when “they are taken out of their sphere of duties, and made ridiculous and useless when the short lived bloom of beauty is over*. . . (*Footnote. A lively writer, I cannot recollect his name, asks what business women turned of forty have to do in the world.)” Anyone here over 40? You might as well give it up now. It’s not just women she’s fighting for, though that was revolutionary enough. She was after equality generally. She’s not happy with royalty or with lords and ladies (the silly ones who spend all day on their fading looks). “. . . the more equality there is established among men, the more virtue and happiness will reign in society. . . After attacking the sacred majesty of kings, I shall scarcely excite surprise, by adding my firm persuasion, that every profession, in which great subordination of rank constitutes its power, is highly injurious to morality.” Women were to be uneducated (except in household duties), protected and innocent. “Children, I grant, should be innocent; but when the epithet is applied to men, or women, it is but a civil term for weakness.” Well said, Mary. Forewarned is forearmed. Turn the light on and wake women up. “Gentleness, docility, and a spaniel-like affection are, on this ground, consistently recommended as the cardinal virtues of the sex; and, disregarding the arbitrary economy of nature, one writer has declared that it is masculine for a woman to be melancholy. She was created to be the toy of man, his rattle, and it must jingle in his ears, whenever, dismissing reason, he chooses to be amused.” Toy, my foot! And she goes on about both men and women being physically fit and active instead of sitting around these days (not enough battles???), and that’s about where I left her. She died not long after giving birth to her daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of Frankenstein and wife of famous poet many of us read in school, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Quite a family! Her work is available for free now online. http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3420

  6. 4 out of 5

    Piyangie

    A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is an early work of the feminist canon. Written in the late 18th century, this work brings out Wollstonecraft's views and theories on how to improve and cultivate the minds of women so that they could become better citizens. Though the time wasn't ripe and the society wasn't ready to receive such ideas pouring from a woman's mind, nonetheless, it held thoughts that are valuable and worthy to consider. The whole context of her work is revolved around one goa A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is an early work of the feminist canon. Written in the late 18th century, this work brings out Wollstonecraft's views and theories on how to improve and cultivate the minds of women so that they could become better citizens. Though the time wasn't ripe and the society wasn't ready to receive such ideas pouring from a woman's mind, nonetheless, it held thoughts that are valuable and worthy to consider. The whole context of her work is revolved around one goal. That is to expound on how to elevate the minds and persons of women. Wollstonecraft was of the opinion that the present inferior condition of the person and state of mind of women was injurious to society. Women were raised from their childhood with one idea instilled in their minds, and that is to please men. They were taught all the charming trivialities and little domestic duties so they can "catch" a husband. But the question is how are they to hold on to that "catch" to the mutual satisfaction? Without any cultivation of the mind can a woman become the companion or friend of her husband when the initial passion dies? And can a woman even become a good mother and a child's first teacher, when she is no more than an overgrown child herself? The answer to these questions, says Wollstonecraft, is a big "No". And to this problem, she provides the following solutions. If women are to become good wives and prudent mothers, their minds and persons need to be developed in such a manner that they become rational beings, able to reason and judge for themselves and be of strong physical constitution. The only solution to achieve this state in self is to educate women correctly. Theirs shouldn't be a "sham" education, where only domestic duties and good etiquette are taught. It must be an education that exercises their faculties and make them able to think for themselves, to judge what is right from wrong for themselves without depending on their male counterpart. To achieve the state of the physical self, they need to be allowed some sort of exercise, not vigorous, but suitable for women's constitution to become strong beings, and not sick weaklings once their youthful bloom is over. All these can be achieved only through a properly guided education. If this is not done, and women continue to be the silly and inferior beings, and they have knowledge only to charm and please men, they will be unfit wives and twice over unfit mothers. The result will be marital disharmony and domestic disorder. Mary Wollstonecraft's opinions and theories address the women's position of her time which is three centuries ago. For this reason, some of her ideas are quite outdated. Yet some of her views, especially on women's education, still stand true to some extent. Even in modern-day, we find some inequality in male and female education around the world. I'm not quite aware of how this work was received in her lifetime, but I presume that the time was not right and that society wasn't ready to receive and concede them. Nevertheless, A Vindication of the Rights of Women is an important piece of literature in the feminine canon. And a crown of laurel must be presented to Mary Wollstonecraft from that half of the human race who benefitted from education for standing up and voicing strongly on women's education at a time when it was so looked down upon equally by both sexes.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine

    HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY TO EVERYBODY! "Make them free, and they will quickly become wise and virtuous, as men become more so; for the improvement must be mutual, or the injustice which one half of the human race are obliged to submit to, retorting on their oppressors, the virtue of man will be worm-eaten by the insect whom he keeps under his feet." Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) Mary Wollstonecraft by John Opie (c. 1797) HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY TO EVERYBODY! "Make them free, and they will quickly become wise and virtuous, as men become more so; for the improvement must be mutual, or the injustice which one half of the human race are obliged to submit to, retorting on their oppressors, the virtue of man will be worm-eaten by the insect whom he keeps under his feet." Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) Mary Wollstonecraft by John Opie (c. 1797)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    This work of literature is particularly significant because of when it was written. Published in 1792, it is often referenced as being the founding text or manifesto of Western feminism. The author was writing in reaction to contemporary Enlightenment philosophers who had extolled the use of reason for determining proper political and social reforms, but had failed to properly consider the role of women. Mary Wollstonecraft in her writing was concerned that some of these age-of-reason writers ha This work of literature is particularly significant because of when it was written. Published in 1792, it is often referenced as being the founding text or manifesto of Western feminism. The author was writing in reaction to contemporary Enlightenment philosophers who had extolled the use of reason for determining proper political and social reforms, but had failed to properly consider the role of women. Mary Wollstonecraft in her writing was concerned that some of these age-of-reason writers had incorrectly (i.e. failed to use reason) in determining the proper role of women. Many of these writers had suggested that women should only concern themselves with domestic affairs and stay out of the political arena. In her response she acknowledged she herself was critical of the prevailing behavior of many women, but she maintained that their undesirable behavior was a product of their lack of correct eduction and social and cultural expectations imposed on them. Wollstonecraft maintained that women will be either the companions of men or their slaves. She believed that in a true age-of-reason men and women should be companions adhering to the same truths and moral values. She also thought it was important that women be well educated to enable them to teach their children to become good citizens. It is my understanding that most intellectuals responded favorably to this book when it was first published. However, later hostility to the work arose because of the demise of the author’s reputation caused by her husband’s memoirs published about her life. In this memoir he mention her frequent disregard of traditional 18th century morality. In that regard she was ahead of her time in more than one way. The writing style is obviously a product of late 18th century vocabulary and social concerns. In particular her frequent used of the words “sensibility” and “virtue” require some elaboration for a 21st century reader. I’m not sure I’m qualified to clarify their meanings, but I’ll provide my general impressions. It seemed to me that “sensibility” as used by this author refers to susceptibility for having emotional feelings, and when applied to women those feelings are often irrational. With regard to the word “virtue,” I was also bothered by what the author meant when she at one point admitted that “men seem to be designed by Providence to attain a greater degree of virtue.” In this context she must be including physical strength as part of what constitutes virtue. During a discussion of this book with Great Books KC it was pointed out to me that the word "virtue" comes from the Latin root vir, for man. Thus the early definition for virtue was manliness or valor. Over time it settled into the sense of moral excellence. Thus Wollstonecraft may have been influenced by her knowledge of the word's origins when she made the statement quoted above. Another thought I've had about this book is that it's kind of like the Bible. It contains so much varied narrative that by selectively choosing certain quotations a reader can come to a variety of contradictory conclusions. This is apparent in the Wikipedia article about the book. There have been a variety of commentary's written about the book's contents that have reached differing interpretations. One interesting issue to note is that Wollstonecraft was not sufficiently extreme in her call for women's rights to fit the definition of feminism as it later evolved. Thus my statement in the first paragraph of this review about it being the founding manifesto of the feminist movement needs an asterisk explaining that not all feminist would be comfortable with that characterization.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    As convenient as it can sometimes be, a disadvantage of reading from anthologies is that one can graduate from college with the vague notion that one has read a work in its entirety, only to discover later that in fact one has read only a page and a half of it in a long-forgotten Eighteenth-Century British Literature class. Which, as you may have guessed, is exactly what happened to me with Mary Wollstonecraft's seminal 1792 treatise A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. I'm happy to have rectif As convenient as it can sometimes be, a disadvantage of reading from anthologies is that one can graduate from college with the vague notion that one has read a work in its entirety, only to discover later that in fact one has read only a page and a half of it in a long-forgotten Eighteenth-Century British Literature class. Which, as you may have guessed, is exactly what happened to me with Mary Wollstonecraft's seminal 1792 treatise A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. I'm happy to have rectified my mistake at last and read Vindication from cover to cover. Unsurprisingly, Wollstonecraft's arguments assume a significant degree more complexity and idiosyncrasy on what I had, until recently, been thinking of as my "second time through." And in fact, as much as she would probably have disapproved of the comment, it was Wollstonecraft's own character that particularly appealed to me throughout this reading. I agreed with her on some points and disagreed with her on others, but throughout I enjoyed her forthrightness, her willingness, to use a modern phrase, to call bullshit on all the male arguments used to claim that women's natural state is one of gentle, slavish devotion, and that women should not be allowed physical or mental exertion. In her impatience with sickly-sweet yet fundamentally condescending verbiage about the "angelic innocence" of women, and with male writers' self-serving insistence that women are formed for the sole purpose of pleasing men, I spied a kindred spirit and was cheering (and sometimes, out of recognition) chuckling along with her outrage. I love how, for example, halfway through a passage quoted from Rousseau on his proposed method of educating women, she can't stand to wait until the end to comment and appends a footnote reading only, "What nonsense!" Neither is she afraid of the exclamation point: "Without knowledge there can be no morality!" she exclaims, and "Ignorance is a frail base for virtue!" I felt throughout, however, that she earned those exclamation points: these are infuriatingly simple and logical conclusions that are nonetheless STILL often disregarded when we educate girls to be sexy rather than smart, charming and flighty rather than honest and self-respecting. I particularly object to the lover-like phrases of pumped up passion, which are every where interspersed [in Fordyce's sermons]. If women be ever allowed to walk without leading-strings, why must they be cajoled into virtue by artful flattery and sexual compliments? Speak to them the language of truth and soberness, and away with the lullaby strains of condescending endearment! Let them be taught to respect themselves as rational creatures, and not led to have a passion for their own insipid persons. It moves my gall to hear a preacher descanting on dress and needle-work; and still more, to hear him address the British fair, the fairest of the fair, as if they had only feelings. I'm reminded of the men who yell at me as I walk down the street lost in thought: "You'd be prettier if you smiled!" As if being eye candy for random men is somehow supposed to be my top priority. Oh sorry! I forgot to think about PLEASING STRANGE MEN while I was cogitating on existential literature! And again: To carry the remark still further, if fear in girls, instead of being cherished, perhaps, created, were treated in the same manner as cowardice in boys, we should quickly see women with more dignified aspects. It is true, they could not then with equal propriety be termed the sweet flowers that smile in the walk of man; but they would be more respectable members of society, and discharge the important duties of life by the light of their own reason. 'Educate women like men,' says Rousseau, 'and the more they resemble our sex the less power will they have over us.' This is the very point I aim at. I do not wish them to have power over men; but over themselves. THANK YOU, MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT. Her discussions of what has come to be called "the male gaze"—the way in which girls and women are taught to think always of how their conduct will appear to men, and act accordingly, rather than acting to please themselves or in accordance with what is most appropriate to the situation—struck me as particularly insightful. In the paragraph following the one I quoted on Fordyce, for example, she points out that he (a preacher) tries to lure women into religious piety by arguing that men find it sexually attractive when women are lost in pious contemplation. Seriously, how insulting! I'm not even religious, and I understand how disrespectful that argument is to the deeply-held beliefs of people engaged with their faith. And yet, have things really changed? I'm reminded of so-called "womens' magazines" and the arguments they use to convince women to go to the gym: it's all about appearing more sexually attractive to a potential partner; and only lip-service is paid to the idea that a woman would value herself enough to want to make her body stronger and healthier for her own sake. Not that there weren't areas where Wollstonecraft and I diverge. She shares, for example, the common Enlightenment belief in humankind's ability to approach perfection through rational discourse, to achieve a state closer to God through the application of reason. Although I agree with her that men and women both benefit by the frequent exercise of their physical and mental faculties, I'm skeptical about how perfectible or rational the human race, or any individual, really is. Moreover, either because or in spite of my religious atheism/agnosticism, I tend to find Enlightenment arguments about the human ability to know God through logic a bit silly: The only solid foundation for morality appears to be the character of the supreme Being; the harmony of which arises from a balance of attributes;—and, to speak with reverence, one attribute seems to imply the necessity of another. He must be just, because he is wise, he must be good, because he is omnipotent. I mean, what? Judeo-Christian friends: is that sound theology? Why does one quality necessarily imply the others? I can easily imagine omnipotence without goodness, for example, just like every day I experience perfectly robust morality with no particular basis in divinity. Arguments like this always strike me as simply a human being imagining all the good things he can think of, combining them in his imagination into one Being, and then claiming that because he can conceptualize this Being, it must exist. And when I say "he," I mean Descartes. But apparently Mary Wollstonecraft as well. It's as if I made a drawing of my dream house, and then claimed that because I drew it, it must be available for purchase. My drawing doesn't prove that the house isn't available; but neither is it proof that it is. Not only that, but in her quest to agitate for the education of women as strong, rational creatures, Wollstonecraft veers so far in favor of strength and reason that she leaves little room for human vulnerability. Take the passage quoted above, for example, on the treatment of fear in girls and boys. While I agree that kids shouldn't be encouraged to be shrieking and cowering away from every little thing when they wouldn't be doing that naturally, I can hardly agree that their fear should be treated like that of boys in the sense of being sternly reprimanded, shamed, told that "boys don't cry," and so on. My personal ideal for both genders is a happy medium between the affected over-sensitivity that has historically been associated with women, and the repressive, uncommunicative stoicism that has often been expected of men. Humans feel fear, tenderness, anger, and so on for reasons, and it's illogical and unwise, in my opinion, to teach children to distort or disregard their true feelings rather than acknowledging those feelings and taking them into account when deciding how to act. (Not, of course, that a passing emotion should be the ONLY criterion for action; just that it should be, ideally, one piece of valid data among others.) Moreover, there's a difference between "fear" and "cowardice"; in equating the two, it seems to me Wollstonecraft is removing the possibility of courage, which I'd define as following through on a difficult action despite feeling afraid. (And in passing, Wollstonecraft's aversion to instinct struck me as one of the strangest facets of the book. She denigrates it even to the point of arguing that animal instinct somehow doesn't reflect her God: "Thus [sensibility] is defined by Dr. Johnson, and the definition gives me no other idea than of the most exquisitely polished instinct. I discern not a trace of the image of God in either sensation or matter." Yet where else would it come from, given her own belief in an all-powerful creator Being? I realize that, for Enlightenment thinkers, the gift of reason is what elevates humans above animals, but surely a benevolent God wouldn't endow the animals with an outright malevolent quality? A very odd, if minor, point.) Like most philosophers, then, Wollstonecraft takes certain positions with which I personally disagree; her feminism is, unsurprisingly, neither so radical nor so inclusive as that of certain more recent writers. Still, as an early, passionate step toward female equality, not to mention as a document of the tumultuous times (Wollstonecraft's argument is very tied up with the Republican rhetoric of democracy and equality which were giving rise to the American and French revolutions), Vindication of the Rights of Woman is an important and thought-provoking read, and one I'm glad to have in my repertoire.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Fiona

    I particularly liked the bit where she said if women didn't get a proper education, they might find themselves "dependent on the novelist for amusement." Awkward. I particularly liked the bit where she said if women didn't get a proper education, they might find themselves "dependent on the novelist for amusement." Awkward.

  11. 5 out of 5

    ~Jo~

    For me, I found this to be an inspiring and persuasive read, and the way in which Wollstonecraft writes has very much to do with that. She does not write in a fancy, graceful manner, but instead, she writes in a no-frills kind of manner, and with this she shows her wondrous intellect, and therefore produces an efficacious result. "My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state For me, I found this to be an inspiring and persuasive read, and the way in which Wollstonecraft writes has very much to do with that. She does not write in a fancy, graceful manner, but instead, she writes in a no-frills kind of manner, and with this she shows her wondrous intellect, and therefore produces an efficacious result. "My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone". Wollstonecraft has included many interesting arguments in here, but one that really shone, was that she believed that all women should all be educated, and informs us that only half of us are in fact educated. She then goes on to say that one cannot teach our children, if we are not educated ourselves, which in my opinion, is an excellent point, but, I also disagree with it. I think an undereduated parent can still teach their children how to be honest and kind, despite not having an education. Although I agreed with many of the arguments that Wollstonecraft presented, I did find that she was rather patronising in parts, towards women and the situations that they may be in. She believes that they should simply "break free" regardless of their family situation, even if that does not allow them to. It is quite obvious Wollstonecraft is from a middle class background, and it certainly shows with her lack of compassion towards women in difficult situations. Overall, this was a powerful feminist read, and Wollstonecraft is definitely an individual to be applauded.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle Dubois

    « … the Rights of Woman must be respected, … I loudly demands JUSTICE for one half of the human race. » Mary Wollstonecraft While I read a book, I always have take some notes about beautiful words, interesting thoughts… I underline, not on the book pages, I hate this ! But on my red spiral notepad next to me, the quotes to remember or to use for my review. This time, I should have noticed nearly everything because each paragraph is important, each chapter is interesting. I learned more about the h « … the Rights of Woman must be respected, … I loudly demands JUSTICE for one half of the human race. » Mary Wollstonecraft While I read a book, I always have take some notes about beautiful words, interesting thoughts… I underline, not on the book pages, I hate this ! But on my red spiral notepad next to me, the quotes to remember or to use for my review. This time, I should have noticed nearly everything because each paragraph is important, each chapter is interesting. I learned more about the history of women, how they were (and still are in a way), underestimated by men. And Mary Wollstonecraft has great and very modern thoughts about the children’s education, boys and girls, and so many other subjects. I would have liked to quote all the book for you, readers, because Mary Wollstonecraft was so intelligent, courageous, cultivated, in a time were women were, because they had to be, uncultivated and afraid. Mary Wollsronecraft tells us, women, the reason why we see ourselves the way we do, and still nowadays… if she knew ! I can’t write a longer review, because all I could do would be paraphrasing her. Here are just few quotes : « Independence I have long considered as the grand blessing of life, the basis of every virtue—and independence I will ever secure by contracting my wants, though I were to live on a barren heath. » She’d like the women to stop « eating the bitter bread of dependence. » And she is « persuaded that the heart, as well as the understanding, is opened by cultivation. » PS: I read this book in French...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Duane

    I imagine Mary ruffled a few feathers when this book was published in 1792, but she only said what needed to be said. Examples of the suppression of women were many, but Wollstonecraft chronicles the ones that were most important to her and provides an intelligent, common sense analysis of what needed to be done in each instance. One of the most important was education, and her belief that young girls needed and deserved the same type of education that was made available to young men. Progress h I imagine Mary ruffled a few feathers when this book was published in 1792, but she only said what needed to be said. Examples of the suppression of women were many, but Wollstonecraft chronicles the ones that were most important to her and provides an intelligent, common sense analysis of what needed to be done in each instance. One of the most important was education, and her belief that young girls needed and deserved the same type of education that was made available to young men. Progress has been made since 1792, but in her examples you will see that shades of the past still linger in certain areas. This is an important work and should be read by everyone, but it suffers from it's length, it's language and writing style. Eighteenth century writing can be tedious, especially non-fiction, but the message is there and it is certainly worth reading.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    3.5/5 Women, I allow, may have different duties to fulfil; but they are human duties, and the principles that should regulate the discharge of them, I sturdily maintain, must be the same. Sound familiar? The quote I started my review of Beauvoir's The Second Sex with runs in a similarly powerful vein, and is why I am, for the first time, rounding my half star up instead of down. When it comes to this work, one must mercilessly separate the wheat from the chaff if the aim is Wollstonecraft's sp 3.5/5 Women, I allow, may have different duties to fulfil; but they are human duties, and the principles that should regulate the discharge of them, I sturdily maintain, must be the same. Sound familiar? The quote I started my review of Beauvoir's The Second Sex with runs in a similarly powerful vein, and is why I am, for the first time, rounding my half star up instead of down. When it comes to this work, one must mercilessly separate the wheat from the chaff if the aim is Wollstonecraft's spirit and not her letter, but what remains is a svelte and shining sword of a spine that can be run through even her own obstinate instances of bad faith. To ancient works that offer me this ironclad potential of self-reflexivity, I will give the full benefit of my attention. The phrases "ahead of the times", "represented the times", "behind the times", etc, etc, mean nothing to me, for it was not too long ago when the closest semblance to humanity was a heap of atoms squirming in the muck and the lightning. Our species will not survive long enough to merit me wasting my time on grading morality on a curve. [M]oss-covered opinions assume the disproportioned form of prejudices, when they are indolently adopted only because age has given them venerable aspect, though the reason on which they were built ceases to be a reason, or cannot be traced. Why are we to love prejudices, merely because they are prejudices? A true mark of a thinker is how receptive they are to you taking bits and pieces of their thought and applying them wholesale to other realms of their own insight. Out of context? Hardly. I'm not talking some eclectic mathematical formula transposed warts and all into some tenet of Hindu philosophy out of some misguided effort to propagate yet another Orientalizing confabulation. In the quote above, Wollstonecraft treats with prejudice in its entirety, so it would only be fitting to apply to this statement to each and every instance of her own displays of this misbegotten stagnation of critical thinking. That's the problem with using the entirety of humanity in order to prove an ethical point, you see. When you say all, you better mean all, else what are you doing opening your mouth in the first place. On what ground can religion or morality rest when justice is thus set as defiance? He wished to crush Carthage, not to save Rome, but to promote its vain-glory; and, in general, it is to similar principles that humanity is sacrificed, for genuine duties support each other. Before Wollstonecraft gifted me with the useful terms of defiance and vain-glory, I characterized my honing of morality on the general public as seeing who got angry and for what reasons. I'd do the same with her if I got the chance, for people inclined towards cisnormativity, heteronormativity, slut-shaming, islamophobia, Sew Work Exclusionary Radical Feminism (Swerf), white feminism, classism, ableism, and probably a great deal of others I missed would have a field day with this work. If I questioned her about these and this and those, which instances would she suppress as defiance? If I poked holes in her trend of immortal souls and biz by pointing out that, yes, they are women as well, how high would her vain-glory raise its genocidal head? I have no use for people who'd prefer it if I were exterminated. The subtlety of some is merely a survival mechanism; all they need is a conflagration for the seeds to sprout. Parents often love their children in the most brutal manner, and sacrifice every relative duty to promote their advancement in the world.—To promote, such is the perversity of unprincipled prejudices, the future welfare of the very beings whose present existence they imbitter by the most despotic stretch of power. One aspect of Wollstonecraft's treatise that I didn't expect and very much appreciate is her taking on the subject of pedagogy, especially in the realms of paternity and maternity. Children take on all sorts of roles in this world of mine: economic strip mine, free labor, emotional chew toy, blow up doll, cultural bridge, translator of the foreign/modern/the times they are a-changin', child, human being, perpetrators of matricide and/or patricide. I don't give a fuck what reasons you have/had/will have for bringing life into this world. I really don't. Barring some exigencies like the genocidal attitude governments have for certain ethnic populations, the way you raise your child is the way you will be convicted. If you're not willing to make the effort to earn the rights you think you have to the autonomy of your offspring regardless if they're gay, trans, disabled, female, young, not financially independent by eighteen, not on whatever is your definition of the right "track", any surprise on your part at what follows is obscene. Nothing more, nothing less. For man and woman, truth, if I understand the meaning of the word, must be the same; yet the fanciful female character, so prettily drawn by poets and novelists, demanding the sacrifice of truth and sincerity, virtue becomes a relative idea, having no other foundation than utility, and of that utility men pretend arbitrarily to judge, shaping it to their own convenience. Let the husband beware of trusting too implicitly to this servile obedience; for if his wife can with winning sweetness caress him when angry, and when she ought to be angry, unless contempt had stifled a natural effervescence, she may do the same after parting with a lover. Wollstonecraft misappropriates the word "slave" a lot, especially in light of The Book of Night Women, and what useful analyses she has to make of the white middle to upper class have to be put on the rack before they're applicable anywhere else, but she's got some valuable things to say about various holisms of morality, justice, and psychology shaped by any variation of tyranny. I'm just glad I didn't get to this before class thrust it upon me, cause the relation between the effort it takes one to sieve through prose and the amount one is bowled over by it in the process is a direct one, and I wouldn't have done myself or anyone else favors by cutting Wollstonecraft's words any slack. The 1790's are dead and gone, people. Let's not pull an anti-vacc on a less biological yet equally powerful front, mmkay? [T]hose who can see pain unmoved, will soon learn to inflict it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Veronica

    To make her case for the proper education of women, Wollstonecraft asserts that the present state of women derives from acquired habit and learned associations — not from a fault of the innate nature of females — and censures Milton's inconsistent discussions on the female sex in Paradise Lost as well as Rousseau's condescension of women in his work Émile. There are many instances when she appeals to the propounded values of the male intelligentsia of the late eighteenth century to emphasize the To make her case for the proper education of women, Wollstonecraft asserts that the present state of women derives from acquired habit and learned associations — not from a fault of the innate nature of females — and censures Milton's inconsistent discussions on the female sex in Paradise Lost as well as Rousseau's condescension of women in his work Émile. There are many instances when she appeals to the propounded values of the male intelligentsia of the late eighteenth century to emphasize the importance of educating women. She relies on religiously founded arguments (e.g., if women do indeed possess immortal souls, should they not then cultivate these souls with equal vigor as that of the opposite sex, instead of concentrating on more trivial and delicate employments?) as well as those founded on the highest virtue of Reason. Wollstonecraft's boldness is all the more compelling given the time in which this book was written. A particularly comedic expression of her temerity is her footnote "What nonsense!" in response to a quotation from Rousseau's book. Wollstonecraft sincerely believed women were only rendered inadequate from want of opportunity, not want of the necessary faculties. Thus, a seminal text that everybody should read and relish. One can simply not but be impressed by her forthrightness and her fervor.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    “Make them free, and they will quickly become wise and virtuous, as men become more so; for the improvement must be mutual, or the injustice which one half of the human race are obliged to submit to, retorting on their oppressors, the virtue of men will be worm-eaten by the insect whom he keeps under his feet.” In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft had the guts and awareness to write a common sense response to the prevailing mentality of her day--that women did not share the same rights as men. Sadly, in “Make them free, and they will quickly become wise and virtuous, as men become more so; for the improvement must be mutual, or the injustice which one half of the human race are obliged to submit to, retorting on their oppressors, the virtue of men will be worm-eaten by the insect whom he keeps under his feet.” In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft had the guts and awareness to write a common sense response to the prevailing mentality of her day--that women did not share the same rights as men. Sadly, in 2017--over 200 years later--we are still making this argument. Where was this book when I was in college? I don’t even remember it being on a reading list--not in history or psychology or educational theory or women’s literature. This is a text to study. Not that the text itself is difficult to understand. She takes some controversial approaches (to female sexuality, religion, and class distinctions), and I have problems with some of her opinions, but the core of the text is as simple as: woman = human education should be the same for everyone when you oppress women, these bad things happen if you treat people equally, these good things will happen Of course this applies to all human rights. The argument in favor is simple: equality, inclusion, acceptance, appreciation. What is complex, and what needs to be studied, is the engine of oppression: who starts it, what makes it run, and most importantly, how can we speed up the unbearably slow process of stopping it. “It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world!”

  17. 4 out of 5

    Below

    Mary Wollstonecraft: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman A brief introduction to a feminist classic. What is the Vindication? A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (hence the Vindication) is the classic feminist text. It was written in 1792, and it has its roots in the Enlightenment. Broadly, its aim is to apply the ideas of rights and equality to women and not just to men. This article will briefly explore the origins of the work of Wollstonecraft by looking at John Locke and Jean Jacques Roussea Mary Wollstonecraft: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman A brief introduction to a feminist classic. What is the Vindication? A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (hence the Vindication) is the classic feminist text. It was written in 1792, and it has its roots in the Enlightenment. Broadly, its aim is to apply the ideas of rights and equality to women and not just to men. This article will briefly explore the origins of the work of Wollstonecraft by looking at John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau, and then look at some of the themes which are present in the text. The Roots of The Vindication John Locke John Locke (1632 – 1704) was a philosopher and political thinker (he was also a political economist, though he is not remembered for this). The most relevant aspect of his philosophy for the work of Wollstonecraft is his theory of empiricism, which was outlined in his work An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. This work argued that people are a blank slate (tabula rasa) at birth, and later develop as people, based upon their experiences.(1) Locke's political philosophy was based around the notion of the social contract. Locke was a firm critic of the nation of patriarchalism, an idea that had been put forward by thinkers such as Robert Filmer. Patriarchalism claimed that the ruler of a state was directly descended from Adam (and thus had the right to rule), that the people should not choose their rulers, and that rulers should act towards the people the way a father behaves towards his wife and children in a traditional marriage.(2) Locke, although God plays an important role in his argument, rejected the claim that kings have a divine right to rule based upon descent from Adam. (3) Locke instead used the device of the state of nature. Locke's state of nature was relatively peaceful, and people were able to own property. He argued that the state of nature has “inconveniences” due to each individual having the right to punish others who offend against the natural laws of God. Thus is makes sense for rational individuals to allow for a political power to arbitrate disputes. (4) Thus, power is not arbitrary, but built upon the will and consent of the people. Jean Jacques Rousseau Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778) was an important 18th century political thinker. Rousseau's state of nature saw man as being amoral and animalesque rather than rational. Rousseau argued that when people come together in groups the rich can abuse the poor, and the poor can be tricked into a false “social contract” for security reasons. (5) Instead of this, in his work The Social Contract, Rousseau argued for a rational state based upon the idea of the “general will”, using direct democracy rather than representative government. (6) However, Rousseau's nation of the citizen (citoyen) in such a state explicitly excluded women. Rousseau believed that women's role should be confined to the private sphere. In his work Emile, he laid out what he believed the ideal woman to be like: essentially a woman who conformed to traditional feminine roles. (7) The Vindication Reason and Virtue: Enlightenment Values Wollstonecraft believed that human beings' value was based upon Reason and the cultivation of Virtue. “Consequently the perfection of our nature and capability of happiness, must be estimated by the degree of reason, virtue, and knowledge, that distinguish the individual, and direct the laws which bind society: and that from the exercise of reason, knowledge and virtue naturally flow, is equally undeniable, if mankind be viewed collectively.” (8) Thus Wollstonecraft goes back to first principles, the principles of the Enlightenment, right at the beginning of her case. Reason and virtue are capacities that have to be developed by the individual. The Role of God Wollstonecraft is also explicit in appealing to God in her theory. She argues that women are equal to men based upon their equality in the eyes of God and the fact that both men and women have souls. They are thus able to both develop their reason and virtue. (9) Class and Wollstonecraft Wollstonecraft specifically says that she is aiming her theory at the middle-class (i.e. bourgeois) women of her era. Inheriting the Enlightenment dislike for the aristocracy (and by extension, arbitrary power), she uses them as an analogy to develop her point that women's education has a corroding effect. Because the aristocracy have inherited their wealth and have not had to work for it, they are like the badly educated women Wollstonecraft describes, obsessed with pleasure over virtue. Bourgeois women on the other hand, Wollstonecraft believes, have a genuine opportunity to be able to improve themselves. (10) The Role of Education Mary Wollstonecraft explicitly agrees with the theory laid out by John Locke that human beings are shaped by their environment and education. Rather that claiming, unlike Rousseau, that the fripperies of woman were natural, she blamed them on the society. She is a fierce critic of the education that is given to girls in her era. Girls were, rather than being taught to develop their reason, were simply taught how to gain a man. They were taught “a smattering of accomplishments” in order to entertain, rather than to develop the capacities of reason and virtue. They were kept inside rather than allowed to play outside, leading to women's physical weakness compared to men to be exaggerated. “Women are told from their infancy, and taught by the example of their mothers, that a little knowledge of human weakness, justly termed cunning, softness of temper, outward obedience, and a scrupulous attention to a puerile kind of propriety, will obtain for them the protection of man; and should they be beautiful, every thing else is needless, for, at least, twenty years of their lives.” (11) The results of this education were clear to Wollstonecraft. Women were physically weak, obsessed with beauty and how to entertain and gain flattery from a man. If they read at all, it was facetious novels* rather than serious texts. Women's only power becomes based on manipulation, cunning and flattery, which undermines rather than promoting virtue. (12) Wollstonecraft had some rather radical ideas on education for the time period. She believed that day-schools should be provided to educate all children together. She believed both that boarding schools lead to vice, but also that home education meant that children could not develop properly as they lacked peers. Wollstonecraft even cuts across class divides a little, as she says that even working-class children could be educated up to the age of 9. (13) However, Wollstonecraft claims that education is not a cure-all for the oppression of women. Society in general also plays an important role. *Wollstonecraft was actually a writer of novels herself, as an aside. Modesty, Love and Friendship Wollstonecraft had very specific views on the ideas of love and friendship as well as modesty and chastity. She disliked an excessive focus on the surface appearance of things, and this can be shown by her views both on modesty and chastity, and her views on love and friendship. As regards chastity, Wollstonecraft argues that women have an overriding imperative to maintain the reputation of being chaste. If a woman is marked out as unchaste, then it is basically impossible for her to marry. However, the focus is upon maintaining the outside appearance of chastity, rather than actually cultivating modesty itself, which is a virtue. The focus on the idea of chastity means that women are likely to use whatever underhanded tricks they can to maintain their reputation, which is corrupting of the actual character and virtues of the individual. (14) Wollstonecraft believes that love is a fleeting thing. She believes that women who cultivate only their beauty, and men who focus only on beauty when determining a wife, are both going to lose out in the long run. As beauty fades, as the marriage progresses it is likely to become unhappy. Whereas, a marriage based upon a deeper bond of friendship is more likely to be able to be maintained over the long term, because both partners have a deeper respect for one another. Wollstonecraft also believed that women should not be reliant on marriage. (15) Equality Versus Difference: The Dilemma There is an important tension in the work of Wollstonecraft that has been present in feminism since: are women to be valued because they are the same as men, or because they are different from men, having the capacity for childbirth and motherhood? Wollstonecraft displays both of these tendencies in her work. As already mentioned, she believes that women are equal to men, and that women, rather than being dependent on a man, could make their own living. She considers that (bourgeois) women who fritter away their time rather than developing their capacities through a work role are wasted. “How many women thus waste life away the prey of discontent, who might have practised as physicians, regulated a farm, managed a shop, and stood erect, supported by their own industry, instead of hanging their heads surcharged with the dew of sensibility...” (16) However, she also stressed the importance of the role of motherhood for women. She believes that, to be an effective mother, women need a strong education and capacity to reason. She explicitly says that, weak, badly educated women make poor wives and mothers in comparison to an educated woman. “Would men but generously snap our chains, and be content with rational fellowship instead of slavish obedience, they would find us more observant daughters, more affectionate sisters, more faithful wives, more reasonable mothers—in a word, better citizens.” (ch 9) Thus there is an ambiguity in the text here that has had an important role throughout the history of the feminist movement. [b]Notes[/b] (1) J. Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, http://marxists.org/reference/subject... (2) R. Filmer, Patriarcha, http://www.constitution.org/eng/patri... (3) J. Locke, Second Treatise on Government, Chapter 1, http://marxists.org/reference/subject... (4) Ibid, Chapter 3, http://marxists.org/reference/subject... (5) “Rousseau”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rou... (6) J. J. Rousseau, The Social Contract, http://www.constitution.org/jjr/socon... (7) http://www.iep.utm.edu/rousseau/#H5 (8) M. Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Chapter 1, http://www.bartleby.com/144/1.html (9) Ibid, Chapter 2, http://www.bartleby.com/144/2.html (10) Ibid, Introduction, http://www.bartleby.com/144/103.html (11) Ibid, Chapter 2. (12) Ibid, Chapter 12, http://www.bartleby.com/144/12.html (13) Ibid. (14) Ibid, Chapters 7 & 8. (15) “Mary Wollstonecraft”, Stanford Dictionary of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/wol... (16) Ibid, chapter 9, http://www.bartleby.com/144/9.html (17) Ibid.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lex

    I mean, how do you properly review this? Very interesting radical new ideas, a tendency to ramble and lean towards being too unstructured, and yknow ... one of the most important feminists of all time

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    ‘I only exclaim against the sexual desire of conquest when the heart is out of the question.’ Radical, witty, courageous, ‘a hyena in petticoats’ (!!!), Mary was a pretty darn cool lady. Wollstonecraft is a startlingly modern voice. A Vindication itself is startlingly modern, despite the fact that it’s the first dedicated articulation of gender equality. Who would have thought that two centuries later, we would still be fighting against static images of femininity and the infantilization of women? ‘I only exclaim against the sexual desire of conquest when the heart is out of the question.’ Radical, witty, courageous, ‘a hyena in petticoats’ (!!!), Mary was a pretty darn cool lady. Wollstonecraft is a startlingly modern voice. A Vindication itself is startlingly modern, despite the fact that it’s the first dedicated articulation of gender equality. Who would have thought that two centuries later, we would still be fighting against static images of femininity and the infantilization of women? The polemic is rational and well-argued, and Wollstonecraft never loses her integrity in the midst of her passion. Her criticisms are bold: from birth, women are instilled with a need to tend to their appearance and not their intellect. They are not supposed to exercise (a turn about the room, perhaps) lest they lose their delicate constitution - this doesn’t exactly bode well for the survival of humanity now, does it? It is not recommended to nurture friendship within a marriage; wives must play hard to get to keep their husbands interested. In short, women exist only to a decorative purpose. Wollstonecraft argues that women who submit to these expectations are perpetuating stereotypes and are, in short, giving the entire sex a bad name. The enduring relevance of A Vindication is gut-wrenching. The stereotypes and double standards Wollstonecraft attacks are still prevalent in mainstream media. Her criticisms of education in particular are amusing, simply because they speak such truth: ‘Men and women must be educated, in a great degree, by the opinions and manners of the society they live in. In every age there has been a stream of popular opinion that has carried all before it, and given a family character, as it were, to the century. It may then fairly be inferred, that, till society be differently constituted, much cannot be expected from education.’ Yup, the UK education system is still corrupt! The tract is at times hard going; Wollstonecraft is occasionally long-winded and archaic in her expression. There is a focus on those abstract nouns of ‘virtue’ and ‘reason’, always confusing since they demand different standards in different times. There are also somewhat sweeping statements that I do disagree with, such as the assertion that uneducated women make lesser mothers or that they may (shock, horror) wind up 'dependent on the novelist for amusement.' Such an interesting work. Illuminating, truthful and subversive, Wollstonecraft was certainly ahead of her time.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Evelyn

    I've read a few feminist texts in the past, but none quite compare to this, which is often deemed as the classic feminist text. Unlike others which can be on the painfully dry and weary side of things, Wollstonecraft's attitude just jumps out at you with every page that you turn of this book. Reading it is like listening to her perform a speech in front of millions, it's so strong and passionate. It really is incredible when you remember that this was published in 1792, I don't think I've read a I've read a few feminist texts in the past, but none quite compare to this, which is often deemed as the classic feminist text. Unlike others which can be on the painfully dry and weary side of things, Wollstonecraft's attitude just jumps out at you with every page that you turn of this book. Reading it is like listening to her perform a speech in front of millions, it's so strong and passionate. It really is incredible when you remember that this was published in 1792, I don't think I've read anything like this that I compare it with on a contemporary level, books are just not written like this anymore. Highly recommended.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Zhaleh

    The language might be a little hard but i love this first piece of feminist literature, if only Rousseau didn't talk too much The language might be a little hard but i love this first piece of feminist literature, if only Rousseau didn't talk too much

  22. 5 out of 5

    Helynne

    What a perceptive and courageous watershed work of feminism--especially for 1792! Mary Wollstonecraft, journalist, novelist, and wife of political philosopher William Godwin, eventually had three children, and died giving birth to the last, Mary Godwin Shelley, who would grow up to marry a famous, radical poet, and herself write Frankenstein and several other novels a generation later. Wollstonecraft, writing in the middle of the French Revolution, albeit in relative safety across the English C What a perceptive and courageous watershed work of feminism--especially for 1792! Mary Wollstonecraft, journalist, novelist, and wife of political philosopher William Godwin, eventually had three children, and died giving birth to the last, Mary Godwin Shelley, who would grow up to marry a famous, radical poet, and herself write Frankenstein and several other novels a generation later. Wollstonecraft, writing in the middle of the French Revolution, albeit in relative safety across the English Channel, was a pioneer in taking the Revolution's new idea of the natural rights of mankind, and applying it specifically to women. In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, she refuses to see women as inferior to men. Her essay calls for better education for women, decries the limitations placed on married women of all classes, and dares criticize the idleness and wasted lives of women in the upper classes. (She even compares the daily routine of rich women to those of Turkish women in seraglios). But her anger isn't directed at uneducated or silly women, but at all the tragically wasted potential she sees in them, and at how they can allow this lifestyle to happen to them. Wollstonecraft is outraged that women soon learn that their sole power lies in how well they can please men. "My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone," Wollsteoncraft states early in her work. "I earnestly wish to point out in what true dignity and human happiness consists. I wish to persuade women to endeavor to acquire strength, both of mind and body, and to convince them that the soft phrases, susceptibility of heart, delicacy of sentiment, and refinement of taste, are almost synonymous with epithets of weakness, and that those beings are only the objects of pity, and that kind of love which has been termed its sister, will soon become objects of contempt." Whew! Pretty bold stuff for 1792! Wollstonecraft does indeed achieve in the most eloquent, but straightforward, language exactly what she sets out to do. As her philosophy in this book quickly crossed the Atlantic and became the basis for the (painfully slow) rise of feminism in the United States, we American women owe Wollstonecraft and this incredibly articulate and audacious essay a huge debt of gratitude! Bravo, Wollestonecraft!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    'A revolution in female manners [would] reform the world' Passionate, forceful, forthright, sharp, irritable, rigorous and oh so rational, what would Wollstonecraft think that over 200 years after her 1791 polemic we still have to argue about equal pay, body image, female aspiration, authorised social constructions of 'femininity' and 'masculinity' and other forms of politicised social and cultural inequality? Forging links between female subjugation and class oppression, between government tyran 'A revolution in female manners [would] reform the world' Passionate, forceful, forthright, sharp, irritable, rigorous and oh so rational, what would Wollstonecraft think that over 200 years after her 1791 polemic we still have to argue about equal pay, body image, female aspiration, authorised social constructions of 'femininity' and 'masculinity' and other forms of politicised social and cultural inequality? Forging links between female subjugation and class oppression, between government tyranny and more personal forms of autocracy, Wollstonecraft, a passionate radical with an abhorrence of slavery, aristocratic and inherited power, remains a startlingly modern voice.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Garner

    I've had to give up on this one, the language isn't doing my dyslexic brain any good. I understand her intentions but by chapter 2 I was struggling to understand what she was saying with all the old way of speaking. I've had to give up on this one, the language isn't doing my dyslexic brain any good. I understand her intentions but by chapter 2 I was struggling to understand what she was saying with all the old way of speaking.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ria

    “Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience.” it's 2020 and some people still don't believe in equality...ugh “Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience.” it's 2020 and some people still don't believe in equality...ugh

  26. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    Finally finishing this is like coming up for air. I'm not going to pretend like I didn't find the writing extremely difficult to parse at times, and was often forced to let it go and move on to the next sentence. This is the grandmother of Western feminist treatises, and though Mary Wollstonecraft can't possibly be expected to be woke (classism is her main cardinal sin here), it's a fascinating artifact of things that were never true and things that remain true. Wollstonecraft wants us to treat Finally finishing this is like coming up for air. I'm not going to pretend like I didn't find the writing extremely difficult to parse at times, and was often forced to let it go and move on to the next sentence. This is the grandmother of Western feminist treatises, and though Mary Wollstonecraft can't possibly be expected to be woke (classism is her main cardinal sin here), it's a fascinating artifact of things that were never true and things that remain true. Wollstonecraft wants us to treat women as fellow humans! The gall of her.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mela

    Must-read for all interested in human rights. You can see how it evolves, how each right has to be won. I was often frustrated because of how obvious (known) some issues were even there, and that we needed two hundred years to resolve them, although we knew already how to do it back then. I didn't agree with all of Mary Wollstonecraft's views, but she was definitely a wise human (yes, I am not using 'a wise woman' in homage to her), and it is really sad that she died so young. Must-read for all interested in human rights. You can see how it evolves, how each right has to be won. I was often frustrated because of how obvious (known) some issues were even there, and that we needed two hundred years to resolve them, although we knew already how to do it back then. I didn't agree with all of Mary Wollstonecraft's views, but she was definitely a wise human (yes, I am not using 'a wise woman' in homage to her), and it is really sad that she died so young.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tanima

    I stumbled upon A Vindication of the Rights of Woman for a classics challenge read, but I was also curious to read about the views of women’s rights long before it was even a movement. Mary Wollstonecraft was undoubtedly ahead of her time. Although she grew up in an unstable household and was denied education from an early age, she was an intellectual who loved to read and was interested in writing about political and philosophical issues. She decided to support herself by pursuing a career as a I stumbled upon A Vindication of the Rights of Woman for a classics challenge read, but I was also curious to read about the views of women’s rights long before it was even a movement. Mary Wollstonecraft was undoubtedly ahead of her time. Although she grew up in an unstable household and was denied education from an early age, she was an intellectual who loved to read and was interested in writing about political and philosophical issues. She decided to support herself by pursuing a career as a professional writer at a time when it was “unwomanly” and “unnatural” to do so. And interestingly, her daughter was Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. Ironically, the issues of stereotypes, intellectualism, and family that plagued her life are the very issues she advocates most ardently in the novel. Wollstonecraft does an insightful job of observing some of the most dominant societal forces holding the women back of her time. She argues that women are traditionally raised to conform to being helpless, docile, and attractive, and one of the most effective ways to combat ignorance and prejudice is education. She proposes that both men and women should be educated rationally, and set to the same standards because “virtue will never prevail in society till the virtues of both sexes are founded on reason.” But, she goes even further by accounting for the argument that women will no longer have “soft bewitching beauty” by countering that they will have “dignified beauty, and true grace,” and how their efforts will benefit the rest of society. In essence, she accounts for politics, familial traditions, religious beliefs, and economics in her arguments. An argument that strikes me as interesting, regarding the traditional views of her time, is when she states that “all writers” who write on women render them “more artificial, weak characters, than they would otherwise have been,” thus consequently readers view them as “more useless members of society.” This statement and the other examples she provides throughout give the impression that since a patriarchal society elaborates these views about women, they become these things, these things consume them, and they conform to these images of what women should do and be. It's a reinforced cycle. A difficult, but fascinating read. I did skip around a bit because she goes off on tangents sometimes. But “like her mother, she became a great writer. Using her mother’s philosophy, she wrote what has become the greatest novel about what happens when the laws of nature are violated.” (Serrin Foster) A beautiful quote: “[T]he reed is shaken by a breeze, and annually dies, but the oak stands firm, and for ages braves the storm.”

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sotiris Karaiskos

    At the beginning of what we call feminism, there is this book. Beyond the date of writing, we understand this because it starts from the very basic: that men and women are mentally equal. Of course, this idea at that time was revolutionary as the view of the inferiority of women was widespread. The author partly recognizes this fact but attributes this inferiority to the lack of education. She, therefore, takes the view that women's education should be strengthened so that they can develop moral At the beginning of what we call feminism, there is this book. Beyond the date of writing, we understand this because it starts from the very basic: that men and women are mentally equal. Of course, this idea at that time was revolutionary as the view of the inferiority of women was widespread. The author partly recognizes this fact but attributes this inferiority to the lack of education. She, therefore, takes the view that women's education should be strengthened so that they can develop morally and mentally and thus become at first better spouses and mothers and later help society further by winning their independence. This thought leads the writer further, to the greater social equality and the abolition of any kind of arbitrary power. A very interesting book that is primarily of historical importance but at the same time talks about things that are impressively contemporary. Στην αρχή αυτού που λέμε φεμινισμό υπάρχει αυτό το βιβλίο. Πέρα από την χρονολογία της συγγραφής του το καταλαβαίνουμε αυτό το γιατί ξεκινάει από τα πολύ βασικά: ότι άνδρες και γυναίκες είναι διανοητικά ίσοι. Φυσικά αυτή η ιδέα εκείνη την εποχή ήταν επαναστατική καθώς ήταν διαδεδομένη η άποψη της κατωτερότητας των γυναικών. Η συγγραφέας εν μέρει αναγνωρίζει αυτό το γεγονός αλλά αποδίδει αυτή την κατωτερότητα στην έλλειψη εκπαίδευσης. Για αυτό εκφράζει την άποψη ότι πρέπει να ενισχυθεί η εκπαίδευση των γυναικών για να μπορέσουν να αναπτυχθούν ηθικά και διανοητικά και έτσι να γίνουν πρώτα καλύτερες σύζυγοι και μητέρες και αργότερα να βοηθήσουν ακόμα περισσότερο την κοινωνία κερδίζοντας την ανεξαρτησία τους. Αυτή η σκέψη οδηγεί τη συγγραφέα ακόμα πιο πέρα, στην μεγαλύτερη κοινωνική ισότητα και στην κατάργηση οποιαδήποτε είδους αυθαίρετης εξουσίας. Ένα πολύ ενδιαφέρον βιβλίο που έχει κατά κύριο λόγο ιστορική σημασία αλλά την ίδια ώρα μιλάει για πράγματα που είναι εντυπωσιακά επίκαιρα.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bon

    I have to say, I didn't think this would be so dry and heavy. Then again, being written so long ago... it isn't often I delve into the 1700s so the language was the major roadblock. A lot of Wollstonecraft's ideas (those I could comprehend, the prose was dense and seemed awful rambling for most of the book, I ended up skimming sooo much) unfortunately have to work within the confines of acceptable social ways of the time - highly religious, heterosexual, domestic arrangements of what seemed like I have to say, I didn't think this would be so dry and heavy. Then again, being written so long ago... it isn't often I delve into the 1700s so the language was the major roadblock. A lot of Wollstonecraft's ideas (those I could comprehend, the prose was dense and seemed awful rambling for most of the book, I ended up skimming sooo much) unfortunately have to work within the confines of acceptable social ways of the time - highly religious, heterosexual, domestic arrangements of what seemed like upper class women particularly. My modern, heathen feminist self cringed back from the often-mentioned biblical establishments of gender roles. That said, she did find sneaky ways to work inside that box - how can a widow be expected to raise proper, god-fearing but successful citizens if she herself is not educated? How can women survive the travails of daily life if not bodily strengthened as men are by exercise? She had a few generally good ideas: - Rousseau's ideas SUCKED. - Inherited wealth and title breeds slothful, lazy individuals - women being even further harmed by the fact that upper class women are just closeted inside to primp all the time. - with preconceived ideas of women as domesticated, blindly-obedient animals who exist just to look pretty, men make those "artificial duties" clash with "natural" duties of motherhood and a domestic role model for children. - how can a woman serve as a proper wife and intellectual companion - at least nod and smile at the right parts of a husband's rant - if not educated? - re: women, "denying her genius and judgment, it is scarcely possible to divine what remains to characterize intellect." All of this considered, she mentions flirtatious, shallow women who don't do much work, which worried me that she was focusing on upper-class women. The lower classes have to learn to manage their own finances, keep a family going, get creative with resources, often are physically strengthened by long, hard days of labor...soooo I took a lot with a grain of salt. Sad I didn't enjoy this more, but I'm going to try her travel writings too.

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