Mary Wollstonecraft was an English writer, philosopher, and advocate of women’s rights. Until the late 20th century, Wollstonecraft’s life, which encompassed several unconventional personal relationships, received more attention than her writing. Wikipedia

BornApril 27, 1759, Spitalfields

DiedSeptember 10, 1797, Somers Town, London, United Kingdom

NationalityEnglish, British

In 1791 women were expected to be pretty and to defer to men on all intellectual matters. Mary called blarney on it all. With wit and sass, she penned the first great feminist missive, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, arguing that men are not the only intelligent humans. They only seemed so because boys received education while girls learned etiquette. With equal education in a co-ed setting, Mary preached women would no longer be called the inferior sex. Instead, they’d finally command the respect they deserved. Today women earn more college degrees than men do. Thanks, Mary!

She died at the age of 38 a couple weeks after giving birth to her second daughter, who went on to become Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. Her mother’s untimely death left many unpublished manuscripts and the inspirations for her own writings later in life.

Her mother’s legacy, from her time spent in France during their revolution against the monarchy of Louis XVI, she penned, An Historical and Moral View of the French Revolution. A British Whig called the women, “furies from hell,” while Wollstonecraft called the women just merely ordinary housewives angry about a lack of bread to feed their families. Wollstonecraft argued that the revolution was not due to the French people all going insane in 1789 as popular opinion in Britain held, but was due to a set of social, economic and political conditions that left no other way out of the crisis that gripped France in 1789.

She herself suffered hardships during the revolution and the declared war on Britain that ensued, left her stranded abroad during the worse two winters in a hundred years. Shortly after her death, her husband published her memoirs, which by society standards were scandalous, although her husband only had the best intentions. Therefore, she fell out of favor until the 1900’s. For many years, the scandalous aspects of her life (such as her two children born out of wedlock) were more noted than her works. The 1900’s brought renewed interest in her writings. In 2011, her image was projected onto the Palace of Westminster to raise support for a permanent statue of the author.

Daughter and Mother

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was an English novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, and travel writer, best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. She also edited and promoted the works of her husband, the Romantic poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley. Wikipedia 

While researching her mother Mary, her daughter’s legacy also sprang forth, for many of the same causes her mother stood for. Mary Shelley had to overcome many hardships herself, including the deaths of her first three children at early ages and the death of her husband Percy, in a boating accident in his early 30’s. She was a loyal friend and daughter, who gave support however she could. She always retained her independence, even if “inconvenient.”

Even today, both Mary’s are being revered by the new generations who are discovering them. Each one’s stories are building upon the legacies they gave rise to. Knowledge is power.

Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
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