It’s the 101st International Women’s Day today so I thought I’d take the opportunity to profile this inspiring woman – one of our earliest feminists able to make a difference and an inspiration for both the nineteenth-century and twentieth-century women’s movements.
Mary Wollencraft (April 27, 1759 – September 10, 1797) was an English writer and passionate advocate of educational and social equality for women.
She is best known for her book ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’, published in 1792, in which she called for women and men to be educated equally. The book is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy.
She argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education
She posited that an educational system that allowed girls the same advantages as boys would result in women who would be not only exceptional wives and mothers but also capable workers in many professions.
Other early feminists had made similar pleas for improved education for women, but Wollstonecraft’s work was unique in suggesting that the betterment of women’s status be effected through such political change as the radical reform of national educational systems. Such change, she concluded, would benefit all society.
The publication of Vindication caused considerable controversy but failed to bring about any immediate reforms. From the 1840s, however, members of the incipient American and European women’s movements resurrected some of the book’s principles. It was a particular influence on American women’s rights pioneers
The life of Mary Wollstonecraft has been the subject of several biographies. Those written in the 19th century tended to emphasize the scandalous aspects of her life and not her work. With the renewed interest in women’s rights in the later 20th century, she again became the subject of several books