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Woman of the Day: Mary Wollstonecraft

Posted by Becca Marcus at 5th March, 2011

Who is famous for being “The Mother of Feminism” but was also the mother of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein?

Mary Wollstonecraft is most commonly referred to as “The first feminist” or “The mother of feminism” for her writings on feminism and philosophy. Her essay “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” from 1792 is one of the earliest works of feminist thought, in which she argues that men and women should have equal education and treated both as rational human beings. This essay was in response to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “Emile” from 1762 in which he argued that woman should be educated for the pleasure and service of men.

Wollstonecraft writes:

“Women are systematically degraded by receiving the trivial attentions which men think it manly to pay to the sex, when, in fact, men are insultingly supporting their own superiority.”

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was considered a radical text as Wollstonecraft was highly critical of the contemporary attitudes towards woman at the time.

Although her fame comes from being a philosopher and pioneering feminist thinker, Mary Wollstonecraft is also remarkable in that she was one of the first women to gain prominence among literary circles in London in the 18th century. Her first influential political piece “A Vindication of the Rights of Men” in 1790 was a response to the French Revolution and Edmund Burke’s “Reflections on the Revolution in France.” Wollstonecraft sharp, effective, and unapologetic critique gave rise to her place as one of the greatest and most controversial writers of her time.

Read more about Mary Wollstonecraft on

Standford Encylopedia of Philosophy or UU Historical Society

Read an online version of A Vindication of the Rights of Women

About Becca Marcus

Becca Marcus has written 46 articles on this blog.

Becca is the Program Coordinator at the Woodhull Institute. She is a graduate of Vassar College with a BA in Media Studies and a correlate in Women's Studies. Becca is interested in Remix Video, collaborative technology, and Feminist community building.

Category : Community Member Projects and Updates / Education / Women

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