Mary Wollstonecraft’s story was uninteresting for a long time, no one liked a woman asking for the same rights between men and women. His life was marked by the tragic, but also by a tireless struggle to defend what he considered fair.
When feminism was not yet such an important stream, when women were relegated to domesticity, Frankenstein’s grandmother began to open the way. We’re talking about Mary Wollstonecraft, mother of Mary Shelley, a really atypical woman for the time she lived. Philosopher and writer, lived a life between letters.
Mary’s figure, unfortunately, was embroiled in the controversy, was severely criticized and questioned by her contemporaries. He died shortly after bringing the world to his daughter, Mary Shelley, for an infection resulting from childbirth.
After his death, his husband, also a writer and philosopher, William Godwin, tried to pay homage to him by publishing his memoirs. But, despite Godwin’s goodwill, Wollstonecraft would only be remembered for his polemics and, as a result, a figure dismissed by the intellectuals of the moment.
His story and his work were silenced, kept secret so that no one, like Mary, dared to think, to claim the rights of women. It will not be until a while later when the new wave of feminism from the beginning of the TWENTIETH was in charge of dusting their texts and returning them the light.
Virginia Woolf and other feminists of the time were in charge of resurrecting Mary Wollstonecraft, a misunderstood woman and, no doubt, ahead of her time.
Childhood and youth
On April 27, 1759 Mary Wollstonecraft was born in Spitalfields (London, UK). He was born into a family with a stable economic position, but his father ended up squandering all family savings. His father, besides, used to drink too much and beat his wife. Wollstonecraft deeply joined his sisters and became an important pillar for them.
Wollstonecraft always defended the independence of the woman and tried to defy the conventions. Thus, she advised her sister Eliza to leave her family, but the world was not prepared for such a thing and Eliza’s fate was rather precarious.
Mary had two important friendships in her youth that would greatly influence her professional future: Jane Arden and Fanny Blood. Arden approached her by her father’s influence on the world of philosophy. Blood died after giving birth and this fact marked Mary enormously.
After the death of her friend, Wollstonecraft makes a fundamental decision: to become a writer. Its first texts are a small reflection on the problems of women in the educational and labour system. When he wanted to seek employment, he realized that his possibilities were reduced to two: to be a governess or caretaker. Moreover, the education received by women was very different from that of men and, as a consequence, was extremely limited.
Later, she began working as a governess, proving to be quite atypical with the education she taught to children. As a result of this experience he writes reflections on the education of the Daughters (1787) and original stories of real Life (1778), his only work of children’s literature. His first work followed a fairly common style at the time, but it is true that he advanced some of the reflections on the single woman, especially its economic limitations.
Later, he got a job in the publisher run by Joseph Johnson, worked as a translator and published Vindication of the Rights of Man (1790). This text, in fact, was a response to Burke’s publication reflections on the French Revolution (1790). Wollstonecraft attacked the hereditary rights and the aristocracy enormously, defending the Republic. But this controversial text was only the first stone for what would come after…
The first feminist
Mary Wollstonecraft landed in Paris in 1792, in a Paris plunged into chaos and in which Louis XVI was to be guillotined. At this time, Wollstonecraft begins to destabilize: on the one hand, it writes vindication of the Rights of the Woman (1972); And on the other, he falls madly in love with Gilbert Imlay, with whom he has a daughter. The relationship with Imlay was a failure and Wollstonecraft wrote desperate letters to him as a result of the depression in which he was mired.
It was the EIGHTEENTH century, it was times of revolution and Wollstonecraft was alone with a daughter. On his return to the United Kingdom, he tried to commit suicide. Paradoxically, this demanding woman who defended both her rights and her independence was in a deep depressive state as a result of sentimental failure. Talking about feminism in Wollstonecraft is somewhat contradictory, as the term was consolidated in a later way.
However, when we read vindication of women’s rights, we realize that the first steps of this struggle are there. What exactly did Mary criticize? Mary saw a problem in the pink novel that was associated with women, because they somehow justified that dependence on man and prevented the woman from thinking. He advocated a rational education for educating girls early in thought and being able to have the same opportunities as men.
Women’s abilities were not a cause of their nature, but they resided in the system itself and, more specifically, in the education received. Mary slapped almost all the thinkers of her time. But Wollstonecraft went beyond the text, bringing his rupture with the conventions almost to the extreme.
He came to propose to the artist and writer Henry Fuseli to open his relationship with his wife and, thus, coexist the three. Of course, at a time when Polyamor was much more than a taboo, the consequences of this proposition were harsh.
The last stage of his life
Mary Wollstonecraft had a hard time overcoming her amorous disappointment, for this reason, she wrote countless letters and tried to commit suicide for the second consecutive day.
In 1796, it publishes a work in which it collects one of its voyages: Letters written in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. She embarked on this trip with the intention of recovering Imlay, but discovered that it was all lost. In this work, he reflects on various social issues and even on his own identity and the relationship of “I” with the world. It reclaims women’s freedom and education and finally accepts that their history with Imlay is over.
In London, he met William Godwin, philosopher and precursor writer of anarchist thought. Both married and established a rule to respect their independence: living in separate but contiguous houses.
From this moment, Wollstonecraft is again immersed in his work as a writer. Unfortunately, happiness vanished quickly and Mary died shortly after giving birth to her second daughter, Mary Shelley, at the age of 38 years. His daughters were in charge of Godwin who, later, returned to marry.
Godwin published in 1798 Memoirs of the author of vindication on the rights of women, although his reception, as we have anticipated, was not quite good. In this work, Godwin was documented through people who had met Wollstonecraft, regrouped all his letters and works.
Today, what Wollstonecraft asked for seems to us to be the most logical, but at the time generated a great controversy. Perhaps the world was not ready to receive a woman like Mary Wollstonecraft.
Wollstonecraft has sometimes been seen as the first feminist and, in a way, it was; Although she is not the only woman in history who dared to claim her rights. Feminism had not yet been born, but she began to gestate it in her work, which would be recovered in the TWENTIETH century. With Wollstonecraft, feminism was a little closer.