Friday, July 8, 2011

Mary and the USA

By DevinCook [Public domain],
 via Wikimedia Commons
[This was posted a few days ago, to begin the week with a focus on the United States. Somehow it disappeared. Probably my fault; grr, blogstuff.]

Of all the countries that Mary Wollstonecraft never travelled to, the United States was the closest to her. She was shaped by her multiple abodes around England, and she was formed by teaching in Ireland, observing in Portugal, writing in France, and travelling through Scandinavia. But the United States, and especially its frontier, represented the hope of a better world, literally the re-making of human nature.

Lyndall Gordon, in an essay on MW's America, says:

Mary Wollstonecraft never came to America, but she did imagine it in the 1780s and 1790s, and did plan to emigrate with her American partner, Gilbert Imlay. They intended to farm on the frontier, and she would have done so had not Imlay withdrawn. Her youngest brother, Charles Wollstonecraft, had already settled in the territory of Ohio, and Mary had sold family property to buy land there. She wished to join him, and to bring along her two sisters, Eliza and Everina. 
She had met Imlay with a prepared mind, a pro-American ideology. ... the prime importance of America for Wollstonecraft was not personal but political, and preceded her attachment to Imlay by nearly ten years.
This is because, Gordon posits, MW's interest in the USA dates back to her early days as a schoolmistress at Newington Green, hanging out with Unitarians and radical political thinkers. She reminds us that Rev Dr Richard price, minister of that congregation, considered the American Revolution "the fairest experiment ever tried in human affairs."

This week, given the season, we will celebrate Mary's connection to the still nascent nation.

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