A Vindication of the Rights of Women

by Wollstonecraft, Mary

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 - 1797), born near London, supported herself in her early years as a governess and as a school teacher. The political upheaval in France fired her interest, and she watched closely the events of the Revolution. Her first pamphlet, A Vindication of the Rights of Men (meaning all humanity), published in 1790, served as a spirited rebuttal to Edmund Burke's argument, in his newly published Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). In that work Burke defended the hereditary principle of succession, the alliance between church and state, and rule by men "of permanent property." In 1792, Wollstonecraft published the highly influential A Vindication of the Rights of Women, advocating equality of the sexes. Her other published works include the novel Mary (1788) and Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution (1794). In 1796, she married the English philosopher and dissenting minister William Godwin. Tragically, she died the next year after giving birth to her daughter, Mary Godwin (who would later become the wife of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley).

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