Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is one of the first feminist publications. In her time, females were mainly seen as a possession, but Wollstonecraft claimed that they had the same rights as males. She wrote much more than this, novels and travel journals, for example. She was one of the first women who could earn her living from writing. She called herself "the first of a new genus".
Wollstonecraft has a difficult childhood. Her family relocates often because her father gets into debt. In addition, he beats his wife. Mary (Wollstonecraft) often lies in front of her mother’s bedroom door, in order to protect her. At age 18, she leaves home.
With her best friend, Fanny Blood, Wollstonecraft sets up a school in Newington Green but Blood passes away not long after. Wollstonecraft leaves the school and settles in London. Here she can often be found at the publishing house of Joseph Johnson, where she meets progressive intellectuals, such as Thomas Paine and her future husband, William Godwin. She learns French and German, translates texts and starts to publish her own works.
The French Revolution touches the hearts of progressive intellectuals. Wollstonecraft receives praise for her A Vindication of the Rights of Man, wherein she defends the principles of the revolution – the freedom and equality of every human being. But especially, the later published A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is still well known today.
In this, Wollstonecraft claims that the ideas of the revolution are also applicable for females. The male revolutionaries had not stopped to think about this. Even the revolutionary philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote that education for females was not necessary, because they are superficial and weak. Nonsense, says Wollstonecraft. It is exactly because of the lack of education that females are superficial. Girls are taught to behave themselves like obedient dogs, like spaniels.
Wollstonecraft leaves for post-revolution France and begins a fateful relationship with the American adventurer, Gilbert Imlay. After the birth of their child, Fanny, he leaves her. Once back in London, Wollstonecraft tries to end her own life by jumping in the Thames, but a passerby rescues her.
Later she marries the renowned liberal philosopher, William Godwin. She passes away during the birth of their second child, Mary. Godwin writes to a friend that he is certain he shall never again know happiness. Daughter Mary later marries English poet, Percy Shelly; at age 19 she writes Frankenstein.