I particularly liked the bit where she said if women didn t get a proper education, they might find themselves dependent on the novelist for amusement Awkward. 3.5 4as blind obedience is ever sought for by power, tyrants and sensualists are in the right when they endeavour to keep women in the dark, because the former only want slaves, and the latter a play thing I saw reference several times to Mary Wollstonecraft around International Women s Day recently and thought I should find this book I read and enjoyed about a third of it, but I eventually got bogged down in the repletition and the language The English literary style of the late 1700s is not easily skimmed, and I really just wanted a sense of her propositions, not chapter and verse.I know I didn t read it all, but I read enough to recognise its importance and her passion, for which I give her four stars.She certainly lets the fellows have it with both barrels She frequently says that what might pass for an acceptable lifestyle in the seraglio harem is hardly an appropriate goal for young women She rails against the injustice of inequality of power The power of the rich over the poor, men over women, and men over soldiers who go straight into the military with no other education.She hopes women won t take offense at her appealing to their good sense and seeming to overlook their feminine attractions My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their FASCINATING graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone If that s all women ever learn how to be simpering coquettes, then no wonder men tire of them eventually when they are taken out of their sphere of duties, and made ridiculous and useless when the short lived bloom of beauty is overFootnote A lively writer, I cannot recollect his name, asks what business women turned of forty have to do in the world Anyone here over 40 You might as well give it up now.It s not just women she s fighting for, though that was revolutionary enough She was after equality generally She s not happy with royalty or with lords and ladies the silly ones who spend all day on their fading looks theequality there is established among men, thevirtue and happiness will reign in society After attacking the sacred majesty of kings, I shall scarcely excite surprise, by adding my firm persuasion, that every profession, in which great subordination of rank constitutes its power, is highly injurious to morality Women were to be uneducated except in household duties , protected and innocent Children, I grant, should be innocent but when the epithet is applied to men, or women, it is but a civil term for weakness Well said, Mary Forewarned is forearmed Turn the light on and wake women up Gentleness, docility, and a spaniel like affection are, on this ground, consistently recommended as the cardinal virtues of the sex and, disregarding the arbitrary economy of nature, one writer has declared that it is masculine for a woman to be melancholy She was created to be the toy of man, his rattle, and it must jingle in his ears, whenever, dismissing reason, he chooses to be amused Toy, my foot And she goes on about both men and women being physically fit and active instead of sitting around these days not enough battles , and that s about where I left her.She died not long after giving birth to her daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of Frankenstein and wife of famous poet many of us read in school, Percy Bysshe Shelley Quite a family Her work is available for free now online. The First Edition Of This Norton Critical Edition Was Both An Acclaimed Classroom Text And Ahead Of Its Time This Second Edition Offers The Best In Wollstonecraft Scholarship And Criticism Since , Providing The Ideal Means For Studying The First Feminist Document In English Idly I wondered if to kiss the rod in the context of women s behaviour after being chastised by her husband was meant to be a double entendre but probably not as she is high minded, but luckily I made my idle observation in a dejected off hand way because later she says Respect for man, as man, is the foundation of every noble sentiment How muchmodest is the libertine who obeys the call of appetite or fancy than the lewd joker who sets the table in a roarp232 , so shame on you if you were tempted to smile at the thought of rod kissing.I did allow myself to be intimidated in to putting off reading this book which has been languishing on the shelf since last year despite reading her impressively passionate Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark in part by the terrifying title vindication, rights, woman All suggestive of great earnestness and grappling with fundamental issues, small wonder, I plead, that I allowed myself to be distracted bylascivious and light hearted reading Though plainly Mary W is also an absolutely sweet person and if one was, through odd circumstances, transported back in time to 1790s London one would be sure to drag her in off the street from the rain , push her into an armchair by the fire, give her tea view spoiler only though with sugar not made by slave labour hide spoiler As convenient as it can sometimes be, a disadvantage of reading from anthologies is that one can graduate from college with the vague notion that one has read a work in its entirety, only to discover later that in fact one has read only a page and a half of it in a long forgotten Eighteenth Century British Literature class Which, as you may have guessed, is exactly what happened to me with Mary Wollstonecraft s seminal 1792 treatise A Vindication of the Rights of Woman I m happy to have rectified my mistake at last and read Vindication from cover to cover Unsurprisingly, Wollstonecraft s arguments assume a significant degreecomplexity and idiosyncrasy on what I had, until recently, been thinking of as my second time through And in fact, as much as she would probably have disapproved of the comment, it was Wollstonecraft s own character that particularly appealed to me throughout this reading I agreed with her on some points and disagreed with her on others, but throughout I enjoyed her forthrightness, her willingness, to use a modern phrase, to call bullshit on all the male arguments used to claim that women s natural state is one of gentle, slavish devotion, and that women should not be allowed physical or mental exertion In her impatience with sickly sweet yet fundamentally condescending verbiage about the angelic innocence of women, and with male writers self serving insistence that women are formed for the sole purpose of pleasing men, I spied a kindred spirit and was cheering and sometimes, out of recognition chuckling along with her outrage I love how, for example, halfway through a passage quoted from Rousseau on his proposed method of educating women, she can t stand to wait until the end to comment and appends a footnote reading only, What nonsense Neither is she afraid of the exclamation point Without knowledge there can be no morality she exclaims, and Ignorance is a frail base for virtue I felt throughout, however, that she earned those exclamation points these are infuriatingly simple and logical conclusions that are nonetheless STILL often disregarded when we educate girls to be sexy rather than smart, charming and flighty rather than honest and self respecting.I particularly object to the lover like phrases of pumped up passion, which are every where interspersed in Fordyce s sermons If women be ever allowed to walk without leading strings, why must they be cajoled into virtue by artful flattery and sexual compliments Speak to them the language of truth and soberness, and away with the lullaby strains of condescending endearment Let them be taught to respect themselves as rational creatures, and not led to have a passion for their own insipid persons It moves my gall to hear a preacher descanting on dress and needle work and still , to hear him address the British fair, the fairest of the fair, as if they had only feelings.I m reminded of the men who yell at me as I walk down the street lost in thought You d be prettier if you smiled As if being eye candy for random men is somehow supposed to be my top priority Oh sorry I forgot to think about PLEASING STRANGE MEN while I was cogitating on existential literature And again To carry the remark still further, if fear in girls, instead of being cherished, perhaps, created, were treated in the same manner as cowardice in boys, we should quickly see women withdignified aspects It is true, they could not then with equal propriety be termed the sweet flowers that smile in the walk of man but they would berespectable members of society, and discharge the important duties of life by the light of their own reason Educate women like men, says Rousseau, and thethey resemble our sex the less power will they have over us This is the very point I aim at I do not wish them to have power over men but over themselves.THANK YOU, MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT Her discussions of what has come to be called the male gaze the way in which girls and women are taught to think always of how their conduct will appear to men, and act accordingly, rather than acting to please themselves or in accordance with what is most appropriate to the situation struck me as particularly insightful In the paragraph following the one I quoted on Fordyce, for example, she points out that he a preacher tries to lure women into religious piety by arguing that men find it sexually attractive when women are lost in pious contemplation Seriously, how insulting I m not even religious, and I understand how disrespectful that argument is to the deeply held beliefs of people engaged with their faith And yet, have things really changed I m reminded of so called womens magazines and the arguments they use to convince women to go to the gym it s all about appearingsexually attractive to a potential partner and only lip service is paid to the idea that a woman would value herself enough to want to make her body stronger and healthier for her own sake.Not that there weren t areas where Wollstonecraft and I diverge She shares, for example, the common Enlightenment belief in humankind s ability to approach perfection through rational discourse, to achieve a state closer to God through the application of reason Although I agree with her that men and women both benefit by the frequent exercise of their physical and mental faculties, I m skeptical about how perfectible or rational the human race, or any individual, really is Moreover, either because or in spite of my religious atheism agnosticism, I tend to find Enlightenment arguments about the human ability to know God through logic a bit silly The only solid foundation for morality appears to be the character of the supreme Being the harmony of which arises from a balance of attributes and, to speak with reverence, one attribute seems to imply the necessity of another He must be just, because he is wise, he must be good, because he is omnipotent.I mean, what Judeo Christian friends is that sound theology Why does one quality necessarily imply the others I can easily imagine omnipotence without goodness, for example, just like every day I experience perfectly robust morality with no particular basis in divinity Arguments like this always strike me as simply a human being imagining all the good things he can think of, combining them in his imagination into one Being, and then claiming that because he can conceptualize this Being, it must exist And when I say he, I mean Descartes But apparently Mary Wollstonecraft as well It s as if I made a drawing of my dream house, and then claimed that because I drew it, it must be available for purchase My drawing doesn t prove that the house isn t available but neither is it proof that it is.Not only that, but in her quest to agitate for the education of women as strong, rational creatures, Wollstonecraft veers so far in favor of strength and reason that she leaves little room for human vulnerability Take the passage quoted above, for example, on the treatment of fear in girls and boys While I agree that kids shouldn t be encouraged to be shrieking and cowering away from every little thing when they wouldn t be doing that naturally, I can hardly agree that their fear should be treated like that of boys in the sense of being sternly reprimanded, shamed, told that boys don t cry, and so on My personal ideal for both genders is a happy medium between the affected over sensitivity that has historically been associated with women, and the repressive, uncommunicative stoicism that has often been expected of men Humans feel fear, tenderness, anger, and so on for reasons, and it s illogical and unwise, in my opinion, to teach children to distort or disregard their true feelings rather than acknowledging those feelings and taking them into account when deciding how to act Not, of course, that a passing emotion should be the ONLY criterion for action just that it should be, ideally, one piece of valid data among others Moreover, there s a difference between fear and cowardice in equating the two, it seems to me Wollstonecraft is removing the possibility of courage, which I d define as following through on a difficult action despite feeling afraid And in passing, Wollstonecraft s aversion to instinct struck me as one of the strangest facets of the book She denigrates it even to the point of arguing that animal instinct somehow doesn t reflect her God Thus sensibility is defined by Dr Johnson, and the definition gives me no other idea than of the most exquisitely polished instinct I discern not a trace of the image of God in either sensation or matter Yet where else would it come from, given her own belief in an all powerful creator Being I realize that, for Enlightenment thinkers, the gift of reason is what elevates humans above animals, but surely a benevolent God wouldn t endow the animals with an outright malevolent quality A very odd, if minor, point Like most philosophers, then, Wollstonecraft takes certain positions with which I personally disagree her feminism is, unsurprisingly, neither so radical nor so inclusive as that of certainrecent writers Still, as an early, passionate step toward female equality, not to mention as a document of the tumultuous times Wollstonecraft s argument is very tied up with the Republican rhetoric of democracy and equality which were giving rise to the American and French revolutions , Vindication of the Rights of Woman is an important and thought provoking read, and one I m glad to have in my repertoire. HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN S DAY TO EVERYBODYMake them free, and they will quickly become wise and virtuous, as men becomeso for the improvement must be mutual, or the injustice which one half of the human race are obliged to submit to, retorting on their oppressors, the virtue of man will be worm eaten by the insect whom he keeps under his feet Mary Wollstonecraft 1759 1797 Mary Wollstonecraft by John Opie c 1797 I imagine Mary ruffled a few feathers when this book was published in 1792, but she only said what needed to be said Examples of the suppression of women were many, but Wollstonecraft chronicles the ones that were most important to her and provides an intelligent, common sense analysis of what needed to be done in each instance One of the most important was education, and her belief that young girls needed and deserved the same type of education that was made available to young men Progress has been made since 1792, but in her examples you will see that shades of the past still linger in certain areas This is an important work and should be read by everyone, but it suffers from it s length, it s language and writing style Eighteenth century writing can be tedious, especially non fiction, but the message is there and it is certainly worth reading. the Rights of Woman must be respected, I loudly demands JUSTICE for one half of the human race Mary WollstonecraftWhile I read a book, I always have take some notes about beautiful words, interesting thoughts I underline, not on the book pages, I hate this But on my red spiral notepad next to me, the quotes to remember or to use for my review This time, I should have noticed nearly everything because each paragraph is important, each chapter is interesting.I learnedabout the history of women, how they were and still are in a way , underestimated by men And Mary Wollstonecraft has great and very modern thoughts about the children s education, boys and girls, and so many other subjects.I would have liked to quote all the book for you, readers, because Mary Wollstonecraft was so intelligent, courageous, cultivated, in a time were women were, because they had to be, uncultivated and afraid.Mary Wollsronecraft tells us, women, the reason why we see ourselves the way we do, and still nowadays if she knew I can t write a longer review, because all I could do would be paraphrasing her.Here are just few quotes Independence I have long considered as the grand blessing of life, the basis of every virtue and independence I will ever secure by contracting my wants, though I were to live on a barren heath She d like the women to stop eating the bitter bread of dependence And she is persuaded that the heart, as well as the understanding, is opened by cultivation PS I read this book in French OH MY GOD , this uncoventional, feminist woman is mother of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, who was one of my favorite author only after Rowling, Wilde, Plathetc SHELLEY, you never tell me how cool your mother was I thought we were best friends. Reading this messy, brilliant book gave me that strange impression you sometimes get with essayists of encountering a perfectly modern mind that is trapped in the past, looking around with modern sensibilities and baffled by what it sees The effect now is not one of genius, but merely of contemporary common sense, applied somehow, magically, anachronistically At one point, during a close reading of Rousseau, Wollstonecraft adds an asterisk, and comments simply in a footnote What nonsense Here you have the book in two words a smart woman looking around at late eighteenth century London, and saying, What nonsense Yet despite the timelessness, its context is important A couple of years before this came out, Burke had published his famous conservative critique of popular uprisings, Reflections on the Revolution in France, and Mary Wollstonecraft had beenor less the first to react, tearing off A Vindication of the Rights of Men just a few weeks later She would be followed by many others not least her occasional dinner companion Thomas Paine , but while the rest of them wittered on about inherent freedoms, she was the only one to look around and consider the novelty of extending those freedoms to the other half of the species So this follow up was written in a specifically revolutionary context, and was intended, as she says, to effect a revolution in female manners.This general down with the nobs , anti aristocratic sensibility is for Wollstonecraft a handy analogue for all that is wrong with female socialisation She equates women with rich military officers, whose primary concern is to look dashing, or with titled nobility for wealth and female softness equally tend to debase mankind, and are produced by the same cause.A king is always a king and a woman always a woman his authority and her sex, ever stand between them and rational converse.The point of similarity is the fact that both women and monarchs are pictured as separate, higher beings by ordinary men but in the case of women it s evenpernicious because it s based on an underlying assertion of inferiority A woman is exalt ed on a quicksand view spoiler this reminded me, vertiginously, of Stoya talking about being put on a pedestal in a trash can hide spoiler