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1st P Mother

MOTHER Back to First Paper

She was called Mary Wollstonecraft and her despot father left a mark at her childhood.  She helped her sister escape from a violent husband and both established a school. At that time she wrote  Thoughts on the Education of Daughters: With Reflections on Female Conduct, in the More Important Duties of Life (1787) and decided to be a writer.
In 1788 she became translator and literary advisor to Joseph Johnson, the publisher of radical texts. She became acquainted with and accepted among the most advanced circles of London intellectual and radical thought. When Johnson launched the Analytical Review in 1788, Mary became a regular contributor of articles and reviews. In 1790 she produced her Vindication of the Rights of Man, the first response to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France. She was furious that the man who had once defended the American colonies so eloquently should now assault the sacred revolution and libel Richard price, a close friend of her Newington days.

In 1792, she published her Vindication on the Rights of Woman, an important work which, advocating equality of the sexes, and the main doctrines of the later women’s movement, made her both famous and infamous in her own time. She ridiculed prevailing notions about women as helpless, charming adornments in the household. Society had bred “gentle domestic brutes.” “Educated in slavish dependence and enervated by luxury and sloth,” women were too often nauseatingly sentimental and foolish. A confined existence also produced the sheer frustration that transformed these angels of the household into tyrants over child and servant. Education held the key to achieving a sense of self-respect and anew self-image that would enable women to put their capacities to good use.

In Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman, published unfinished in Paris in 1798, Mary asserted that women had strong sexual desires and that it was degrading and immoral to pretend otherwise. This work alone sufficed to damn Mary in the eyes of critics throughout the following century.

In 1792 she set out for Paris. There, as a witness of Robespierre’s Reign of Terror, she collected materials for An Historical and Moral View of the Origins and Progress of the French Revolution: and the effect it has Produced in Europe (vol I, 1794), a book which was sharply critical of the violence evident even in the early stages of the French Revolution.

Mary eventually recovered her courage and went to live with William Godwin in Somers-town with whom she had first met at the home of Joseph Johnson in 1791. Although both Godwin and Mary abhorred marriage as a form of tyranny, they eventually married due to Mary’s pregnancy (March 1797). In August, a daughter Mary (who later became Shelley’s wife), was born and on September 10 the mother died.

As we could see Mary’s mother life was marked by important features of her time and she gave shape to them, not by describing them but critisazing with her acid words and feminist ideas; all the manuscripts, articles and books she wrote became the guide of Mary Shelley, who continued this ideology during all her life.

You can also link this page in which you’ll find  a wide explanation about her life:

Mary Shelley




Academic year 2009/2010
© a.r.e.a./Dr.Vicente Forés López
© Agustín Cacho González

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