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Transcript of Mary Wollstonecraft
In different parts of the world, women are still treated as minorities and are not equal to men. Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani school girl who is an education activist as well as feminist. She is very passionate about getting girls the education that they need. At the age of 15, she was shot in the head by members of the Taliban as an assassination attempt. How do you think Mary would reflect on this issue? Put yourself in Mary's shoes. What would your feelings be towards a girl as young as Malala standing up for the same things as you?
Wollstonecraft was a big advocate of education. She wanted equal rights for all, and believed that anything a man could do a woman was able to do as well. She stated in her famous book,
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,
“Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience.” What do you think Mary meant by this? Compare how the average man of her time would have felt towards this quote, in comparison to that of a woman.
Mary was born in . . .
As the end of the French Revolution neared, the people of France longed for a hero to replace their previous King Louis XVI, who had been killed during the Robespierre Reign of Terror. Napoleon Bonaparte, a general with great military success, seemed to meet the desires of France, and was promptly put into power. In 1804, Napoleon instilled the Napoleonic Code, better known as the French Civil Code. This outlined the governing laws of France, which undoubtedly discriminated against women. They were portrayed as inferior to men, obedient to their husband's, and merely a piece of property rather then a person. This code, completely challenged the progress Wollstonecraft had made for women throughout her career. If she had been alive to witness this, how do you think she would have felt and responded? Would she take action to change it, or just go along with and accept it?
Mary had a daughter with William Godwin, whose is famously known as Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. Unfortunately Mary died just 10 days after giving birth to her daughter due to infection, and was not able to see the great success she grew up to be. If Mary had seen her daughter grow up as such a brilliant woman in the professional world, which at the time was not a popular place for females, do you think she would take some of the credit for her success, since she advocated for those rights, or give credit instead to her daughter's creativity and society modernizing at its own pace? How would her daughters success have differed, if people like Wollstonecraft had not stood up for women? Would society's views on women in professional positions such as authors have eventually modernized on its own?
Mary herself was abused as a young girl and often witnessed her mother be physically and emotionally abused by her father. Later on in life she helped her sister get out of an abusive marriage by hiding her away until a divorce was granted. How did these negative experiences towards women influence the path she chose in life? If Mary had not been exposed to these misfortunes as she grew up, in what ways would her view on feminism differ?
Wollstonecraft said "What a different character does a married citizen assume from selfish coxcomb, who lives, but for himself, and who is often afraid to marry lest he should not be able to live in a certain style." How does this quote portray the attitudes of men both in Wollstonecraft's time and modern day? How do you think married men then and now, view the rights and power of women, in comparison to that of single men?
Wollstonecraft's most famous book, was . . .
Mary's first daughter
is remembered today as the author of Frankenstein
: Wollstonecraft was a radical feminist
In 1784, at Newington Green, Mary and her sister Eliza, opened a . . .
Mary is considered to be a true child of the French Revolution
Autumn Mosey & Amanda Fattore
Often times, Wollstonecraft's analysis of society, is centered around a universal idea of progress. In saying "It is time to separate unchangeable morals from local manners," she gives emphasis to the notion of humanity as a whole disconnecting themselves from their cultural and social norm, and instead, attend to global principles of morality. Does Wollstonecraft's devotion towards this concept of universal progress, empower or diminish her radical mindset on the supremacy of women? Was her desire for this progress rational or too far-fetched for a patriarchal society such as France who had been functioning this way for centuries?
As a feminist, Wollstonecraft's main goal, was to achieve gender equality in society. Just as men could, she wanted females to have the opportunity to reach success by their own free will and intelligence, rather then being handed a status or position that they did not earn or desire. In the primary article, she said "How much more respectable is the woman who earns her own bread by fulfilling any duty, than the most accomplished beauty?" Here, she is stating her idea on how respect should be earned by effort, not by being born into fortune. Can you think of a modern day example of an individual who was given a high status due to the work of others rather than themselves, unlike the majority of society? What level of power and ambition to succeed independently, do you think women of Wollstonecraft's time possessed in comparison to the majority today?
Throughout the span of the French Revolution as well as prior to it, women were restricted from being participating members in society. They were banned from sitting on juries, receiving education outside the home, and anything else that would make their perspectives significant. Wollstonecraft used her radical views to speak out against the flaws in France's social order regarding the unfair treatment of women, which most citizens were hesitant to do. Do you feel that Wollstonecraft's strong opposition and fearlessness to speak out created support or distance from her fellow citizens? How would a radical like her be viewed in a civilized society like today's?
Throughout her life, Wollstonecraft frequently separated the business of her personal life from the business of her social and political life. She would refer to her multiple lovers, such as Gilbert Imlay as "my host," and refrain from using any other explicit allusions whenever discussing this topic. Why did Mary insist on this separation of her two worlds? Was she concerned for her reputation and support, or just simply going along with the common protocol of a person in the public spotlight? If she had made her romantic affairs public, how do you think her position in history as a respected radical feminist who did not depend on men, would have changed?
In the end, Mary Wollstonecraft was a moral and political theorist whose analysis of the rights of women in society has been carried throughout history. Her novels, pamphlets and critical reviews have helped to mark her place as an educated radical feminist, who fought strongly for her cause. Due to this, her works will always be a part of the foundations and values of our modern society.
Mary Wollstonecraft is known for being one of the founders of feminist philosophy. If Mary did not stand up for rights of woman and education, would society today be different or the same? If someone like Wollstonecraft were to advocate for change regarding something in today's world, do you think things like social media would make it easier or more difficult to achieve this change?
At the age of 15, Mary stated that she would never marry because she believed woman should not give up their right to freedom and control of their sexuality. This is the reason why she did not marry Gilbert Imlay despite the fact that they had a child together. After her relationship with Imlay ended, she began to have a relationship with William Godwin. Despite what Mary believed, in 1797 Mary and William got married when they discovered she was pregnant. If Mary had not become pregnant, do you think she would have held on to her beliefs of women not needing a man or, would she have still gotten married and come to the realization that just because a woman has a soul mate, does not mean she has to give up her personal freedom and control? What is your stance on this situation?
Order the following from first to last
1. Helped her sister get out of a miserable marriage
2. Became translator and literary adviser to Joseph Johnson
3. Wrote famous novel Vindication of the rights of woman
4. Had a daughter Fanny with Gilbert Ilmay
5. Tried to commit suicide
6. Birth of her daughter Mary with William Godwin