Mary Wollstonecraft

by: Mark Siemens, Alannah Vermeer, Amy McDonald.

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)

Born: April 27th, 1759 in Spitalfields, London
Died: September 10th, 1797 in London

"The most perfect education, in my opinion, is such an exercise of the understanding as is best calculated to strengthen the body and form the heart. Or, in other words, to enable the individual to attain such habits of virtue as will render it independent. In fact, it is a farce to call any being virtuous whose virtues do not result from the exercise of its own reason. This was Rousseau’s opinion respecting men: I extend it to women." - Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women Quote


Mary Wollstonecraft was born on April, 27, 1759, in Spitalfields London and was the second of seven children. She grew up in a very unstable household with several different issues: issues that would later influence her work. Her father was a man who could barely keep a job. He mishandled his father's inheritance leaving the family on a financial and social decline. They were constantly on the move, which also resulted in him becoming a very abusive man. Mary's father's abuse was mainly directed at Mary's mother, an issue that would shape how Mary reacted to things in her future. More Info; Info Due to the abusive family situations, and the constant unstable uprooting of her family, Mary left home at the age of 18 and never returned. In 1784, Mary, who was then 24, opened her first all girls school in Newington Green, along with her sister Eliza and a close friend, Fanny Blood. Unfortunately, this school did not last long, causing Mary to change directions once again. More Info After the falling out of her school, Mary turned to writing, creating many of the books listed below, and worked as a governess for a family in Ireland. Although Mary had many profound ideas, ideas that today we may agree with, she received very little support from fellow peers. In March of 1797, Mary married a man by the name of William Godwin; however, on September 10, of that same year, she passed away after giving birth to their daughter. More Info

Mary Wollstonecraft's Contributions to Education

Besides Mary's unsuccessful all girls' school, Mary's contributions to education revolve around the rights and celebration of women. Mary was a feminist and her book, A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), composes an attack on Rousseau's view of female education. Rousseau, in Emile, viewed women as weak, artificial, and dependent on men and their education. Mary argued that women need to be intelligent for themselves, rather than hoping to find a man to be smart for them. Mary went on to argue that women were rational thinkers, something that had been argued against by other theorists. She stated that education did not encourage the development of women as rational thinkers but rather hindered it. Info Mary went on to argue that girls need this encouragement at a young age, resulting in them receiving the same treatment and opportunities as boys in school and future career opportunities. Mary explains that this encouragement needs to come as a result as girls receiving the same education as boys. Boys and girls should be educated together to ensure sameness, rather than apart - co-education. At the time, since girls were seen as irrational thinkers driven by their passion, this view of co-educational classrooms was seen as nonsense to many educational theorists. Critics argued that Mary was simply in a power struggle, trying to gain women power over their husbands. Mary replied to this accusation by stating that she wanted women to have power over themselves, and not become victims in a power struggle with men and society. More Info. Mary was not always at odds with other male theorists. John Locke had a substantial influence on Mary's thought and many of Locke's ideas can be found in Mary's work, More Info .

Books by Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft's List of BooksThoughts on the Education of Daughters (1786)
Mary, a Fiction (1788)
Original Stories from Real Life, a children's book. (1788)
Jacques Necker's On The Importance Of Religious Opinions, translated by Wollstonecraft. (1788)
Christian Gotthilf Salzmann's Elements Of Morality For The Use Of Children, translated by Wollstonecraft. (1788)
Begins work as a reviewer for "The Analytical Review". (1788)
The Female Reader compiled by Wollstonecraft. (1789)
A Vindication Of The Rights Of Men (1790)
A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman (1792)
An Historical and Moral View of the origin and progress of the French Revolution (1794)
Letters Written During a Short Residence in Norway, Denmark and Sweden (1796)
MARIA or The Wrongs of Woman (1797)
Essay "On Poetry" (1797)
Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman (published 1798)
Posthumous Works (published 1798)
Book List

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