First published in 1792, this book was written in a spirit of outrage and enthusiasm. In an age of ferment, following the American and French revolutions, Mary Wollstonecraft took prevailing egalitarian principles and dared to apply them to women. Her book is both a sustained argument for emancipation and an attack on a social and economic system. As Barbara Taylor points out in her introduction, subsequent feminists tended to lose sight of her radical objectives. For Mary Wollstonecraft all aspects of women's existence were interrelated, and any effective reform depended on the redistribution of political and economic power.
Mary Wollstonecraft was born in 1759 in Spitalfields, London. After an unsettled childhood, she opened a school following which, her first work, Thoughts on the Education of Daughters, was published in 1787. After a stint as governess in Ireland, she continued to write and published several other works including Mary (1788), A Vindication of the Rights of Men (1790) and her most famous, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). That year she travelled to Paris where she met Gilbert Imlay, by whom she had a daughter, Fanny. Her travels around Scandinavia with her baby daughter in 1795, inspired her travel book Letters Written during a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, but on returning to London Imlay's neglect drove her to two suicide attempts. In 1797 she married William Godwin, and had a daughter, the future Mary Shelley. Wollstonecraft died of septicaemia shortly after the birth.
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