Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) was one of the first feminists. In 1792, she wrote a book called “A Vindication of the Rights of Women,” which advocated for equality of men and women. She grew up with an alcoholic, violent father and had to take care of her sisters. She left home to become a “lady’s companion” but didn’t’ get along with the lady whose companion she was paid to be. After a stint as a nanny for a family that she again didn’t get along with, she decided to become a writer. She moved to London, fell into the writers’ culture, and hung out with the big thinkers of the time. Her groundbreaking book proposed the then-radical theory that women were actually equal to men but only the lack of educational opportunities for women made them seem intellectually inferior. She twice became pregnant without being married—which was scandalous at that time. She married the second baby’s father before the baby was born. She died during childbirth, but her baby lived and grew up to be Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. After her death, her husband published her memoirs, which people found to be too radical. Thus, even her memory was ostracized from the mainstream women’s movement of the time.

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