Friday, August 24, 2012

Mary at the Dissenting Academy

Mary Wollstonecraft has her portrait hanging in the new Dissenting Academy. It's not a school, college, or seminary, but a pub, and a very nice one too.
Throughout history, Newington Green has been a destination for free-thinking people who have challenged conventional ideas and changed society. The most famous dissenting academy in the land was located here, and it is from this exceptional establishment that our pub takes its name and its desire to challenge conformity. Today's Dissenting Academy celebrates purveyors of non-conformist art and music, and provides an inspirational environment in which to enjoy good beer, tasty food and brilliant company.
It opens today, and so far I've not had a chance to speak with manager Ben King. In time...

Monday, August 20, 2012

A concordance (with love from Japan)

Two of the main works by Mary Wollstonecraft are available as a digital concordance, thanks to Nagoya University's Victorian Literary Studies Archive, and particularly Mitsu Matsuoka, of their Graduate School of Languages and Cultures. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and Maria, or the Wrongs of Women (and, worryingly, Frankenstein, but we'll let that pass) are available for scholarly scrutiny and casual curiosity alike, line by line, word by word.

How many times is "husband" used in the essay? How does that compare to "wife"? Is it possible to tease out the use of "woman" as a singular and an abstract noun? How is "women" used, in contrast?

The ease of manipulating digital texts contrasts with the difficulty of doing it with pencil and paper. It amazes me that pre-digital concordances existed at all. The labour involved! The Bible was the main text for centuries, of course, but other works did get the treatment. Hyper-concordances have established themselves as one of the first and most visible arms of the digital humanities. Who knows what the next development will be?

wife: 34
husband: 65

Friday, August 17, 2012

The British Library and the long S

The British Library website has chosen to feature A Vindication of the Rights of Woman with a photo of the opened book. You can see how Joseph Johnson still used those long Ss that look like Fs to today's eyes. (When I was a child, I thought our ancestors all had lisps.) The photographic quality allows you to see the actual texture of the paper, the slight mottled spots, the imperfect corners.

The national library of record has form, of course: that book and its author were stars of the show entitled Taking Liberties, a site thoroughly worth exploring. It was curated by a chap called Matt Shaw, who, in response to a query on Twitter, took the time to look into female readers in the first few decades of the Reading Room. Such is the wealth of BL resources that the exhibition site points us in turn to a 1792 map by Richard Horwood, showing all the houses not only of London and Westmister, but of Southwark too, just across the bridge from the booksellers' hub at St Paul's.... but before we get lost...

Timelines: Sources from History starts in the 1200s. By the 1790s, the publications that shaped our world are coming thick and fast. 1791 is represented by Tom Paine's Rights of Man, and 1793 by the execution of Louis XVI. Sandwiched in between are two pages from the dedication to Rights of Woman, with an explanation of its context. Since she is allegedly writing to Talleyrand, Mary Wollstonecraft reflects on the French way of doing things:
...the system of duplicity that the whole tenour of their political and civil government taught, have given a sinister sort of sagacity to the French character, properly termed finesse; from which naturally flow a polish of manners that injures the substance, by hunting sincerity out of society.
And, modesty, the fairest garb of virtue! has been more grossly insulted in France than even in England, till their women have treated as prudish that attention to decency, which brutes instinctively observe.  
Manners and morals are so nearly allied that they have often been confounded; but, though the former should only be the natural reflection of the latter, yet, when various causes have produced factitious and corrupt manners, which are very early caught, morality becomes an empty name. The personal reserve, and sacred respect for cleanliness and delicacy in domestic life, which French women almost despise, are the graceful pillars of modesty; but, far from despising them, if the pure flame of patriotism have reached their bosoms, they should labour to improve the morals of their fellow-citizens, by
teaching men, not only to respect modesty in women, but to acquire it themselves, as the only way to merit their esteem.
Contending for the rights of woman, my main argument is built on this simple principle, that if she be not prepared by education to become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of knowledge and virtue; for truth must be common to all, or it will be inefficacious with respect to its influence on general practice. And how can woman be expected to co-operate unless she know why she
ought to be virtuous? unless freedom strengthen her  reason till she comprehend her duty, and see in what manner it is connected with her real good? 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

House for sale

Mary Wollstonecraft's life was changed in Newington Green, and a house that she knew there has just come up for sale. It's salutary to compare its glossy restoration to what is can be seen in her birthplace, Spitalfields. 

If you have £1.8 million to negotiate with, then have a look at the famous terrace on the west of the green. The house in question, number 55, appears to be next door to that of Rev Dr Richard Price, who entertained so many of the luminaries and radicals of the late eighteenth century. "The Village that Changed the World" says it "is considered to be the oldest surviving terrace in England ... and was restored between 1987 and 1996." (Street numbering around the green has changed at least once.) The estate agents say:
A rare opportunity to acquire this stunning Grade I listed house, offering over 3100 sq ft of sympathetically restored accommodation over five floors.... The property has been beautifully refurbished by the current owners and retains the majority of its wonderful period features, including an impressive original staircase, panelling and window shutters. Unusually for a property of this type, the house has a central staircase giving two generously proportioned rooms on each of the four floors. 
A couple of miles south is the City of London. Spitalfields has risen and fallen over the centuries; in 1759 it was still thronged with silkweavers (not least Wollstonecraft pere et fils); now it is on the up again. Wander its closely packed streets, as twilight closes in and the house lights go up, and through many of the uncurtained windows you can observe what I call Restoration dramas, people living their twenty-first century lives in old buildings on display to the world. Some are merely boring "luxury" flats with gleaming kitchens that could be anywhere, but many of these terraced houses have now been brought back to eighteenth century elegance. There are panelled parlours full of gentlemen's furniture, displayed as set pieces for the viewer's delectation, waiting for the actors to walk on. (And no, I'm not talking about Dennis Severs' House.) On Fournier Street, one of these substantial houses is for sale, for those with £2.5 million. Estate agent says: 

A simply superb four bedroomed house... boasting a unique and charming interior throughout, private garden and a location ideal for all local amenities....Reception room with fireplace and storage, dining room, kitchen with integrated appliances, excellent sized master bedroom with fitted wardrobes and stylish en suite shower room, second bedroom with modern en suite bathroom, two additional good sized bedrooms with storage space, lovely bathroom, utility room with space for appliances and a garage/store room.
Look at the photographs, both of the bones of the houses, and what has been done to them. One similarity I noticed was the interior doors. It takes an effort of will to feel one's way back into the time when Mary Wollstonecraft would have known them.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A talk in the middle of England

A month from now is a talk from Lyndall Gordon on Mary Wollstonecraft: First of a New Genus.

When? September 11, 7pm.

Where? The Stony Stratford Library. Where?? It's one of the little towns swallowed by Milton Keynes. And its appeal?
Welcome to the community website for Stony Stratford. We offer FREE parking and 5* Loos so please come and visit us soon.
NB the site is run by the council. I found a picture of the pleasant-looking high street, but for some reason it won't load; you can have a look at it if you like.

More info on the talk here. It's free, but ticketed, and run by Friends of the Library, who provide cake and wine. And, no doubt, five-star toilets.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Caitlin Moran profers a glass of wine

Britain's best-selling feminist salutes England's first feminist:
If you could choose one subjugated woman from history to bring to 2012 in order to enjoy the freedoms that women have now, who would you choose? 
Probably Mary Wollstonecraft. Because that was so ballsy, you know? That was an era where there were people around who could still remember witches being burned. So not just to give her hope and make her realize that she did start something that was incredible, but also to reward her by letting her just sit back and listen to some Beyonce, and order a really fucking amazing steak, and some underwear that wasn't made of sacking cloth, and that wasn't full of nits. I would bring Mary Wollstonecraft back and show her the 21st century. Give her some wine.
The interviewer is a New Yorker called Chiara Atik ("a dating writer, a Lower East Side dweller, and a feminist"). The where and when is an American website called The Hairpin. The subject is none other than Caitlin Moran. She too seems to understand the virtues of poetical truth over historical accuracy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Action Philosophers

With the permission of the evil twins from Action PhilosophersFred Van Lente for the words and Ryan Dunlavey for the art. Two graciously ink-stained wretches!

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Dead Good (New) Beginning

Hello everyone, I'm back. A most amusing summary of Mary Wollstonecraft's life and legacy has crossed my desk.  I decided to ask for permission to bring it to you verbatim, which Ashley Lister, co-ordinator of the Blackpool writers collectively known as A Dead Good Blog, promptly and kindly granted. See? The internet can be a pleasant place. I don't usually reproduce blog posts, but since it's time to start anew, perhaps it's time to start a new ... habit? Practice? Tradition? If I enjoy a piece of writing, why not see if I can grant the same pleasure to my dear readers, as well. So here goes "The beginning is always today", by poet and writer Vicky Ellis:


"I hate clever women...they are only troublesome."  This is not a quote from my favourite writer.  These are the words of Henry Fuseli: artist, visionary and twunt.  He was also 'unhelpful crush #1' for Mary Wollstonecraft, author, feminist and lover of twunts. 

Here's what Mary wrote:

'Security of property! Behold in a few words, the definition of English liberty. And to this selfish principle every nobler one is sacrificed....'

'Virtue can only flourish amongst equals' 

From A Vindication of the Rights of Man (1790) which preceded Thomas Paine's Rights of Man by a year.

“[I]f we revert to history, we shall find that the women who have distinguished themselves have neither been the most beautiful nor the most gentle of their sex.”  

“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.” 

“Taught from their infancy that beauty is woman's sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.”  

From A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

Clearly she was a rational, keen-minded individual with a, sadly, contemporary-sounding axe to grind.  But these words, marvellous as they are, do not encapsulate what was wonderful about Mary Wollstonecraft.  Mary was, in the nicest possible way, a bit of a fuck up.  She had a habit of falling for the least suitable man to hand. 

Now these men were respected in their professions.  They were intellectuals, noted for their work.  They were no doubt fascinating in some way or I doubt they would have caught her attention.  They were not, however, particularly nice men.  Take twunt #1 above.  Fuseli was an interesting chap.  Repressed sexuality aside, he helped define the Romantic movement and he did a reet good incubus, so he did.  He shared a deep Platonic relationship with Mary which, for her part, turned into love.  Fuseli was married.  A slight hitch.  Mary decided that she could work around that and asked his wife if she'd mind terribly if she moved in with them, seeing as she had such great affection for Henry and all.  Sophia, Henry's wife, failed to see the practicality of this solution and forbade Mary from ever seeing Henry again.  Henry had no further contact with Mary.

You could argue that Mary was being unrealistic, or even that she was a little bit mad.  I think not.  I think she was working within the remit of the manifesto which she had written.  The first quote above makes it clear that she believed that the laws of property interfered with 'noble principles'.  The definition of property can be extended to include notions of ownership in relationships.  As a fiercely independent woman, her suggestion makes sense in a way that was centuries ahead of its time. 

After this humiliating event, Mary travelled to France, to enjoy her fame as a supporter of the Revolution.  There she met the dreamboat, Gilbert Imlay, aka twunt #2.  He was a speculator, and had an interesting approach to diplomacy, running British blockades of French ports while acting as ambassador in Paris.  He mirrored this approach in his dealings with Mary.  A lusty love affair led to pregnancy.  She had his child.  He became restless.  He left her with the baby in Paris and moved back to London.  She followed him to London.  He largely ignored her.  She tried to kill herself.  She recovered and agreed to go on a business trip across Europe, with her baby, on his behalf.  She returned to find him shacked up with another woman.  She tried to drown herself in the Thames.  

Again, you could argue that Mary was being a little bit naive by trekking across to Sweden on his behalf.  At the same time, however, she wrote to him frequently.  Her letters to him were collected and read by her later husband, William Godwin, who said of them: "If ever there was a book calculated to make a man in love with its author, this appears to me to be the book."  The letters allowed Mary to make a clever and emotional plea for Imlay's affection, ranging between vulnerability and independence.  Here was a woman who capable of using her writing like a spell to enchant her would-be lover. 

But Imlay was a bad egg.  Mary's letters didn't entice him back towards his responsibilities, however alluring their content, and Mary was forced to come down on the side of independence once more.  Those words which she had sent out into the world found their enraptured audience, however, in William Godwin, writer and philosopher.  The pair hit it off and soon she was pregnant again.  This time the couple married.  Seems like a good idea right?  Well as it turns out this marriage only drew attention to the fact that she hadn't been married to Imlay when she bore his child.  English Society was not too chuffed and a few of her friends found that the stench of scandal was more than they could bear. 

Nevermind, Mary and William set themselves up in the Polygon, a pair of ajoining houses which allowed them to be independent and communicate by letter.  Superb.  Their eversomodern plan was working out splendidly until Mary died of septicaemia 11 days after giving birth.  Bugger.  

William published a biography of Mary a year after her death, detailing her suicide attempts, the hopeless love affairs and illegitimate children.  England was scandalized once more.  Her name was mud until the Feminists cleaned her off and called her Mother.  

So there she is.  Mary Wollstonecraft.  Intellectual rebel.  Emotional hazard.  Fierce, fragile and expressive.  Role model.  Icon.  

Friday, April 27, 2012

Happy birthday #mw253

What are you doing to celebrate the 253rd anniversary of the birth of Mary Wollstonecraft? The best idea might get its author a whole guest blog post! Comments are now... open.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Learn with Lyndall Gordon

An Oxford study day near Mary Wollstonecraft's birthday. Ironic that she does not really appear in the title -- Revolutionary Lives: the Godwins and the Shelleys. Biographer Lyndall Gordon, whose talk on Mary and the Unitarians I attended in May 2011, will be presenting 75 minutes of "A New Genus". The day, Saturday 28 April 2012, recapitulates the quadrille played out in the exhibition at the Bodleian, Shelley's Ghost (aka Our Mary, Her Husband, Their Daughter, and the Tousle-hair'd Poet), which I visited with Chihiro Umegaki, and which has recently been rehung at the New York Public Library

Monday, March 26, 2012

Podcast: Rousseau, Macaulay and Wollstonecraft on Negative Education

Last Monday we looked at the first podcast from last month's philosophers' confab on Mary Wollstonecraft. That was Enlightenment Thinker by Karen O'Brien. This week it is the turn of Martina Reuter of Helsinki and Jyväskylä, Finland, speaking on Rousseau, Macaulay and Wollstonecraft on Negative Education.
In her Letters on Education, Catherine Macaulay adapts J.-J. Rousseau’s notion of negative education, emphasizing that the primary task of education is to protect children from harmful impressions. There is a certain tension in Macaulay’s use of the notion. Her belief in the active power of reason is much stronger than Rousseau’s and she does not seem to realize that Rousseau introduced the notion of negative education as an explicit critique of John Locke’s theory of education. In my presentation I will first examine Macaulay’s adaption of negative education and then, in the second part of the paper, I will argue that Mary Wollstonecraft seems to be less influenced by the idea of negative education than Macaulay. I suggest that Wollstonecraft’s slightly lesser worry about harmful impressions does not primarily follow from her belief in reason, which she shares with Macaulay, but rather from her conception of the imagination. According to Wollstonecraft’s notion of creative imagination, the imagination is not merely passively inflamed by impressions, but also able to create impressions and combine reason with passion.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Luddite confounded: Mary goes Android

AKA, I do not really understand modern life, and nor would Mary Wollstonecraft, part 297...

...but fortunately some friends do, in this case the Chicago anarchist Voltairine de Cleyre, who befriended me on Twitter, disclosed herself as a Lost Daughter (i.e. one whose thinking followed the path Mary had cut), pointed me towards poetry, and more recently has alerted me to Android apps. I do not understand how any organisation can make money selling items that are legally and widely available for free, as old books out of copyright are, but there you go: clearly I am behind the times. For £0.61 you can acquire a four-in-hand*:

This book contain collection of 4 books
1. Mary: A Fiction [1788]
2. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman [1792]
3. Letters written during a short residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark
4. Maria; or The Wrongs of Woman [1798]
William Godwin has one too; his costs a penny more, but offers seven books.

*Four-in-hand: a carriage drawn by four horses. Also, now, four books that can be read on one hand-held device.
Android image: Google [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, March 19, 2012

Podcast: Enlightenment thinker

The one-day philosophers' confab in Sweden (which we covered earlier) has released its presentations as podcasts. Here's the first of them; the other four will appear on successive Mondays:
Karen O'Brien, Birmingham.
"Mary Wollstonecraft: Enlightenment thinker"
In this paper O’Brien revisits and, to an extent, revises what she has written before about Wollstonecraft – in Women and Enlightenment in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge, 2009) – concerning her relationship to Enlightenment thought. O’Brien here specifically picks up on how Wollstonecraft’s fiction, Letters from Sweden and her two Vindications, develop a strand in Enlightenment thinking that is concerned with the insight into human rights (and specifically female rights) that comes from mutual recognition of affect and individual sensibility.
Here is the official site, if you can't wait for more recordings. The audio is clear, but very quiet, though I have set everything I can to maximum. Eleven, even. (Spinal Tap can be an excellent intro to philosophy for some teens: sexism/sexist, inches/feet, perception/reality.)

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Mary Wollstonecraft Centre

The brass plaque on the door said

The Mary Wollstonecraft 
and Richard Price Centre 
for Women's Leadership 
and Financial Literacy

I woke from a dream a few weeks ago with this image in my head. Yesterday I shared this vision with sensible people who did not laugh at me. Something is about to happen.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dear Wm's scribblings

Mary Wollstonecraft's last few years, some of her happiest, were intimately bound up with William Godwin. When their friendship ripened into love, they married; when the fruit of that love killed her, he was devastated.  I think he went a bit mad with grief, rushing into publication with one of the most ill-advised memoirs in literary history. A year ago we looked at his diary, newly online, its odd abbreviations rendered comprehensible by careful editing, a gift to the world of scholarship, a triumph of the digital humanities. Now we have his letters, or at any rate 200 of them in the first volume, taking us from 1778, when he was "a theologically muddled twenty-two-year-old dissenting preacher", to the disastrous widowerhood of 1797. The TLS printed a review by Kelly Grovier of both of these resources. It begins with this paragraph:
In September 1797, two weeks after his wife, Mary Wollstonecraft, died in childbirth, William Godwin confided to a friend, “I cannot write. I have half destroyed myself by writing. It does me more mischief than anything else. I must preserve myself, if for no other reason than the two children”. On the day of Wollstonecraft’s death, Godwin wrote half a dozen painful letters and throughout this volume one has the sense of peeling away at something unreachable as his grief ripens in real time. When he breaks the news to one of his closest friends, the radical writer Thomas Holcroft, Godwin’s mourning has grown starkly raw: “I have not the least expectation that I can now ever know happiness again. When you come to town, look at me, & talk to me, but do not (if you can help it) exhort or console me”. Nor were letters the only repository of his desperation. A groundbreaking new website devoted to Godwin’s extensive and often cryptic diaries, hosted by the Bodleian Library, reveals the instant when language itself momentarily failed. The entry for September 10, 1797, the day thirty-seven-year-old Wollstonecraft succumbed to a complication of so-called childbed fever, Godwin’s pen briefly flatlines, able to produce nothing more than four long strokes from left to right across the page. 
William Godwin was an influential writer, but more than that, he was a salonier, if the male form of the word exists: "His London sitting rooms became incubators for an astonishing number of poets, painters, radical theorists and mysterious travellers".  He moved all over the city, as Mary did -- Grovier says his numerous abodes "reflects Godwin’s ability over these years to stitch himself tightly into the emotional fabric of an ever-widening social circle". These friends and acquaintances ranged "from supporters of revolution in France, such as Thomas Paine, to those who would oppose it, such as Edmund Burke; from celebrated natural philosophers and inventors such as Joseph Priestley and Thomas Wedgwood, to pioneering women writers such as Mary Hays and Elizabeth Inchbald."

Grovier praises the editorship of Pamela Clemit, who balances the needs of various readers and annotates the material "in a manner that is neither condescending to academic readers, nor too elitist in its scholarly presumptions".  It's an undervalued skill. Even more invisible are the humanists behind the online diary, "a fully searchable, digitized engine that chugs smoothly through some thirty-two notebooks that Godwin kept between April 1788 and March 1836 (the month before he died), while providing access to high-resolution images of the original octavo leaves. The result is a trove of cross-reference against which one can read the broken epistolary record."

What kind of a person was Godwin? Would he and Mary have remained a couple, had she lived, or would she have grown beyond him? Grovier ascribes to Godwin "a supple and forgiving temperament, and a capacity for empathy that fostered moving insights into human motivation". He encouraged the young, for example: "there are many letters to aspiring writers and thinkers who have turned to Godwin for advice and on whom he warmly lavishes professional and personal encouragement." Here's a vignette of the man -- again, at the time when he was freshly widowed (widowered?), the wound still raw and gaping. He reaches out to a young man in trouble, imploring him:
to “cultivate cheerful impressions. Break off abruptly the thread of painful ones . . . . Do not indulge in visions & phantoms of the imagination, or place your happiness in something you may perhaps never obtain, but endeavour to make it out of the materials within your reach”.
Grovier supposes that "on some level [Godwin] is strenuously trying to soothe himself". I can well imagine that he used similar words to soothe Mary's doubts and fears. Truly, a remarkable man.

Pamela Clemit, editor
Volume One: 1778–1797
440pp. Oxford University Press. £100 (US $185).
978 0 19 956261 9
Portrait of William Godwin by Henry William Pickersgill [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, March 11, 2012

In her footsteps

There's another walk featuring Mary Wollstonecraft, this time around the area where she spent her last few years, when she took little Frances and set up home with William Godwin in the parish of St Pancras, in an area of Camden now known as Somers Town. This walk is called All Change at Kings Cross* and is led by Rob Smith of Footprints of London. It takes place on Sunday 25 March from 11am to 1pm and costs £10, or £7.50 concessions; Rob has promised to make a donation to Mary on the Green. It covers:
the history of the area, looking at the existing buildings and what is planned for the future. You'll hear how Kings Cross kept London supplied with food and the areas links with the Beatles, the Olympics, Frankenstein and the French Revolution as well as many other stories.
I've catalogued my previous walks, starting in St Pancras and progressing to Somers Town, via St Paul's and Southwark, with many more waiting in the wings: Bloomsbury, Barking, Spitalfields, and of course Newington Green.

The little church at the head of the village green was the final point for last Sunday's walk with Simon Cole of Hackney Tours. (I love the page on its ethos - how many tour companies have one of those?). This walk is called "Feminism, fame & infamy: How Hackney women have shaped our world" and makes very specific reference to Mary Wollstonecraft. He led this tour on the Sunday before International Women's Day, donating half the fee to the sculpture campaign.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

IWD: education above all

Mary Wollstonecraft was above all an educator, and her Vindication of the Rights of Woman is a plea for good education. We have free education for all - the battle has been won. Right? In honour of  International Women's Day, yesterday we looked at maternal mortality, i.e. her death, and today we turn our attention to girls' education, her life, because the struggle continues, not only globally and but also right here in her heartland.

Education in the eighteenth century is perhaps better understood now by the word "upbringing"*. Mary Wollstonecraft worked as a teacher and a governess, set herself up as the proprietor of a boarding school, and cut her writer's quill on pedagogy. Her first book, Thoughts on the Education of Daughters, was aimed squarely at fellow educators, parents and teachers both; her second, Original Stories from Real Life, was intended to be used with children. Later she compiled A Female Reader, just in the nick of time for the Austen girls' home schooling.

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is predominantly an educational treatise -- after all, she was responding in part to Talleyrand's proposals for the education system of the new France. Gladstone read and annotated her magnum opus, and re-read it in the years of the British debate over the establishment of national education. She is credited as one of the first educationalists to call for all classes and both sexes to learn together in their first years. Here's an excerpt of what she thought on the subject.

Aside from her writings, she inspired others on a personal basis too: her employer dismissed her from her post as governess after a year because her pupils loved the visiting Englishwoman more than they did their own mother. (This aristocrat was the very model of Lady Bertram, lapdogs and all - more proof that Jane Austen was a Lost Daughter - and the eldest girl, Margaret King, went on to be quite the rebel herself, even naming her final incarnation in honour of her inspirational governess.)

So why do we need to be concerned with girls' education now, when they often outperform the boys? Two reasons: one here in the Wealthy West, and one in the Wider World. In all the English-speaking countries I know, girls and young women still tend to avoid the subjects that can lead to lucrative and engaging careers. Remember "Math is hard. Let's go shopping!" brought to you by the Barbie Liberation Organization? (The culture jamming reached the New York Times, while the resulting snowclone is tracked down by Language Log.) Look at this 2010 report from the Institute of Education: Bright girls less likely to want to study maths and physics at A-level than bright boys.

The second is that no woman is an island. Many children around the world do not complete a basic education; most of those are girls. Take Pakistan as an example - a country with strong ties to Britain, not least in that a substantial number of British schoolchildren have roots there. Statistics from its Ministry of Education (the date isn't clear, but probably around 2002) state that the male literacy rate was 61% - pretty bad. And the female? 37%. "Left out/ out of school children": 5.5 million. NB not disaggregated by gender, but you take a guess. That country is one of many where girls don't get the beginning of a chance at a fair education, and this has multiple ramifications.

As I say to both men and women, if you were raised by a woman who could read and work and vote, you owe something to Mary Wollstonecraft. It is salutary to remember that many girls and boys around the world do not have the privilege of an educated mother.

If you want more information, just released is the very resource: The UNESCO World Atlas of Gender Equality in Education (i.e. gender inequality). There's the United Nations Girls Education Initiative too. And again - this eclectic collection of IWD 2012 posters.  

Logo from Education International"the world's largest federation of unions", 
representing "organisations of teachers and other education employees across the globe".
*A line from the recent Montreal film Monsieur Lazhar stuck. The uptight parents of an uptight pupil are speaking to the eponymous teacher: "We would rather you concentrated on teaching our daughter; we will bring her up." 
Enseigner vs. eduquer.  French preserves the wider meaning that English has largely lost

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

IWD: maternal mortality

International Women's Day is celebrated on March 8 every year. What would Mary Wollstonecraft make of it? Last year was its 100th anniversary, and so it got more of a media splash in the UK than it has done for some time. 2011 also saw the unveiling of the most recent plaque commemorating a place where "England's first feminist" lived or worked. This year, again, there is a corporate-sponsored website aiming for comprehensive coverage of events. (They do things differently in France.) Let's focus on two themes: maternal mortality and girls' education. Today, the first.

Mary Wollstonecraft died in childbirth. Two graphs "about this cause of avoidable mortality in women", pulled together by Ben Goldacre, the doctor who likes statistics, famous for his Bad Science columns, blog and books. One is the UK, 1880 to 1980. The other is international, 2005. Do you want to guess the worst time and place? It was about three times as bad in Afghanistan a few years ago as it was at its iatrogenic peak in the UK in the 1890s. With adjustments for population: for every woman who dies in childbirth in El Salvador, more than ten die in Afghanistan. For every woman who dies in Canada, more than twenty die in El Salvador. Logarithmic scales of difference, in our world, here, today. Almost a thousand women die every day of pregnancy-related reasons, according to Women Deliver. I'l repeat that, louder: A THOUSAND DEATHS A DAY.

Ruth Franklin, stimulated by the arrival of Shelley's Ghost in New York, asks in The New Republic if Frankenstein was really about pregnancy and childbirth. It's not a novel argument. A cursory acquaintance with a few biographical facts makes it evident that, as she puts it, "not only was Mary Shelley pregnant during much of the period that she was writing Frankenstein, but she had already suffered the birth and death of an infant." A later miscarriage brought her close to death. What Franklin doesn't explore is the impact of motherlessness (or, conversely, that of the Wicked Stepmother) on young Mary. Had the obstetrician washed his hands, the world might have had decades more of paradigm-shifting political writing, but we would not have had Frankenstein. That is a book that could only have been written by someone who knew that her birth had killed her mother.*

The perils of maternity was not the lesson taught by Mary Wollstonecraft's life but that imposed on her legacy. The death of artistic creativity after childbirth, famously summarised by Cyril Connolly as "the pram in the hall", was supposed to be so much worse for women. Instead of one type of creativity feeding the other, they were seen to cancel each other out. There was no point in educating girls, because they disappeared into multiple motherhood, or died in the effort. Or they went mad - the wandering womb - The Yellow Wallpaper. The lucky and exceptional ones, exceptionally educated, could aspire to become men, like Elizabeth I.

The lesson explicitly taught by Mary Wollstonecraft was the value of education. Tomorrow, on International Women's Day itself, we'll explore what that means in 2012. In the meantime, for inspiration, check out this eclectic collection of IWD 2012 posters.  

Logo from Education International"the world's largest federation of unions", 
representing "organisations of teachers and other education employees across the globe".
*This brings to mind "Each man kills the thing he loves." Happily married Oscar Wilde had his views on pregnancy too. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mary on Doodly

Created by, and reproduced with the kind permission of, Telling Tales. The original is here and more about Doodly - still in beta - is here. Telling Tales (domain name telling-tails: I like the wordplay) has also written about the Vindication anniversary, and Judy Chicago's vision of Mary Wollstonecraft. It turns out that she worked on the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day in London, which got quite a splash, and which of course was the date of the unveiling of the latest plaque to MW. And she appears to be Canadian: bonus points.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

“Mary, Marie” at the Whitney Biennial

Moyra Davey has a new series of pieces on Mary Wollstonecraft, this time at the Whitney Biennial, which opens today until 27 May. It's handily just down the road (well, 30 Manhattan blocks) from Shelley's Ghost, newly resettled from its previous home at the Bodleian, an exhibition to which she refers in an interview with Daniel Merritt of The Eye:
For the works for the biennial, I went to the Pforzheimer Collection at the New York Public Library. It’s a fantastic collection. There’s a show there called “Shelley and His Circle,” so I was photographing letters that Mary Shelley and her sisters had written and first editions of Mary Wollstonecraft’s books and wonderful stuff like that. The photographs at the Whitney are almost all photos I took from there.
The Biennial piece is described by Carmen Winant on the New York Public Radio website thus: 
Moyra Davey's "Mary, Marie" (2011) is art about the artifacts of correspondence. The piece is made up of 12 unfolded chromogenic prints pinned to the wall, which were taped, addressed, stamped and sent through the USPS to the artist's sister, mother and nieces. The "letters" are themselves photographs, each a close-up image made of a series of letters written by women's rights activist Mary Wollstonecraft, who is the mother of the author of "Frankenstein," Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. The images show the tears, creases, nicks and scars from their snail mail journey, and each serves as a visual map of its own unique voyage. Davey is an artist who has long explored the fragments and markers of time: she collects diaries, old newspapers, and empty liquor bottles for her work. With "Mary, Marie," Davey captures a sense of time slowly and quietly moving forward through modes of personal communication.
There are 51 artists displaying their works, and only five get the NYPR nod as "what to see".

Moyra Davey has another current work on Mary: a video entitled Les Goddesses, briefly covered here, previously in London, soon to open in Glasgow. She has promised us an entry for a new series here on Mary and Me, how artists and academics have had their lives and work touched by the foremother of feminism. 

Photo of the Whitney by Gryffindor (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( 
or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mary & Mary on stage, on tour

Here's a new play entitled Mary Shelley, with - it would appear - an emphasis on that young woman's ghostly relationship with her dead parent:

Having lost her mother, feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, at an early age, young Mary finds comfort in reading the family memoir written by her father, the radical philosopher William Godwin. However, his free-thinking account of her mother’s suicide attempt, extra-marital affair and birth of her illegitimate elder daughter are regarded by society as shocking....Delving into Mary Shelley’s turbulent personal history this striking production sheds light on the life of a bold young woman....
(From The Morley Observer.)  However, the West Yorkshire Playhouse,  where Mary Shelley launches its "world premiere tour", doesn't mention Our Lady:
This powerful new play explores Shelley's remarkable life: her controversial philosopher father, her scandalous elopement aged 16 and how she wrote a novel, so radical in its ideology, that in 1817 she changed the literary landscape forever.
We shall see. The company is Shared Experience, the playwright Helen Edmundson, the director Polly Teale. Mary Shelley is a co-production between the company and the Nottingham and West Yorkshire Playhouses, in association with the Oxford one. It launches in Leeds from 16 March to 7 April, tours half a dozen cities, landing finally at the Tricycle in London 12 June to 7 July.

[Addendum: some thoughtful comments in an interview between Catherine Noonan and Polly Teale on "Female-led theatre in an imperfect world".] [And a review from la petite feministe anglaise, Sarah Graham.]

Kristen Atherton as Mary Shelley.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Mary reaches the NYPL

Opening today is another opportunity to see the very notes Mary Wollstonecraft penned to William Godwin, while labouring to deliver the future Mary Shelley. Readers will remember the excursion with Japanese historian Chihiro Umegaki to the final days of the exhibition entitled "Shelley's Ghost: Reshaping the legacy of a literary family". Here's my review of the enduring aspects of the exhibition (website, book, etc.)  It was put on at the Bodleian in collaboration with the New York Public Library, home of the Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle, and now has reached that institution, under the title "Shelley’s Ghost: The Afterlife of a Poet".

Those interested in Mary Wollstonecraft should note the change of focus: the official website says "The exhibition, curated by Stephen Hebron, was shown in a slightly different form at The Bodleian from December 2010 to March 2011."  I called the English version Our Lady, Her Husband, Their Daughter, and the Tousle-hair'd Poet. It seems that in Manhattan, the parents are downplayed, and the young 'uns bigged up.

There is another confirmation that most people who have heard of Mary Wollstonecraft have done so only because they think she wrote Frankenstein:
"It's very exciting for people who don't know Shelley so well, people who are getting a first introduction to his poetry and Mary and his parents," curator Elizabeth Campbell Denlinger said in an interview about the exhibit, which delves into the radical politics that both Shelley and his wife identified with.
I very much doubt that Delinger said "his parents", but that is what the reporter heard, or what her editor "corrected" her copy to. That quote is from Frankenstein's Monster Alive at NYPL Shelley Exhibit

It's at the NYPL till Jean Baptiste Day, in the Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III Gallery of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Love those American philanthropists!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Vindication: 220 years on

On 23 February 1792, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was published. What does the work of Mary Wollstonecraft mean to you? What is her legacy in our time?

(Reminder: A recap of resources.)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Presidents' Day, Family Day

In the United States it is Presidents' Day*. In parts of Canada, it is Family Day**. What would Mary think? She preferred presidents to monarchs, and family to both. She made her own family in Newington Green, with gentle Frances and rescued sister.

Does anyone want to start a campaign for a Mary Wollstonecraft Day? It doesn't have to start off as a worldwide paid day off. It could be like Apple Day, which is not sponsored by the Apple Marketing Board, or Apple Corp. (Aside: I saw a "Sent from my iPhone" at the end of a message, except it was space-curtailed. The truncated version said "Sent from my iPho". For a second my brain misfired. "What? Steve Jobs's ghost is serving Vietnamese soup? Someone has to tell them when to stop!")

*Wikipedia has two whole paragraphs about the apostrophe issue. 

**Same day, different name in Manitoba: Louis Riel Day. 
Best Tshirt spotted in Toronto: portrait of the rabble-rouser, captioned Keepin' it Riel. 

Photo of Riel is in the public domain, see here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Heroines in DC

In this month's focus on the United States, and continuing our series on statues (to inspire the one of Mary Wollstonecraft that is in the works), we have an excellent opportunity to look at American statues of women. To what extent they explicitly or implicitly acknowledged their debt to the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (which turns 220 years old this week), I do not know.

In the Capitol, the symbolic centre of American democracy, is The Woman Movement, also known as the Portrait or the Suffrage Monument, a curious white block from which rise three marmoreal figures. A good first stop for information is, as ever,Wikipedia (and have I mentioned that Mary Wollstonecraft is at the centre of a splendid series of Featured Articles? Oh yes, I have). So, who are these White Ladies?

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the principal author of the Declaration of Sentimentsa document signed in 1848 by 68 women and 32 men who attended the first women's rights assembly, now known as the Seneca Falls ConventionLucretia Mott was a Quaker social reformer; she attended the World Anti-slavery Convention in London in 1840 during her honeymoon trip, where the two women met. 

Susan B. Anthony came slightly later to the cause of women's rights, having previously been active in temperance and anti-slavery. The house she lived in for most of her life is now a museum, and in the little park it faces is a rather wonderful statue of her with former slave Frederick Douglass, enjoying cups and conversation. It is called Let's Take Tea, and is worth a separate post.

The sculptor of the marble block was Adelaide Johnson (1859-1955):
In 1896 she married Frederick Jenkins, a British businessman and fellow vegetarian who was eleven years younger than she. He took her name as "the tribute love pays to genius". They were wed by a woman minister, and her bridesmaids were the busts she did of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. However, the marriage ended after twelve years. She exhibited at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, showing busts of prominent suffragists Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The high point of her career was to complete a monument in Washington D.C. in honor of the women's suffrage movement. Alva Belmont helped to secure funding for the piece, which was unveiled in 1921. [...In later life, as she was faced] with eviction for failure to pay taxes, in 1939 she invited the press to witness her mutilating her own sculptures as a protest against her circumstances, and against the failure to realize her dream of a studio-museum commemorating suffragists and other women's campaigners. 
It seems that much of this comes from a two-page biography by two men, Frank Faragasso and Doug Stover, associated with the Sewall-Belmont National Landmark, the headquarters, museum and archives of the National Woman's Party. It's a classic case of donor beware: look what happens when you give an expensive present to someone who doesn't really want it:
The National Woman's Party presented the 13-ton statue to Congress in 1921, less than a year after the passage of the 19th Amendment. Congress grudgingly accepted it, with its gilded inscription praising the women ""whose spiritual import and historical significance transcends that of all others of any country or any age." Twenty-four hours later, the gilding had been whitewashed and the statue moved from the Rotunda to a storage area beneath, where it remains.
( From "Girl seeks to move statue to Rotunda" in the Houston Chronicle. See also "A rock and a hard place Statue: The stormy debate over placing a Capitol sculpture honoring three feminists may finally be approaching a compromise" in the Baltimore Sun.)  Faragasso and Stover's piece seems to have been written in the mid-1990s, when the statue's place in the Capitol was once more under discussion. Eventually it got moved (back) to the Rotunda. The two men argue in "A Marriage of Art and Politics":
One of the peculiarities of our culture is that artists seldom take an interest in politics, and politicians do not come from the ranks of the artistic community. Occasionally, art and politics blend in one public person. Adelaide Johnson (1859-1955) was an artist who devoted her life’s work to the advancement of equality for women and, in doing so, merged her artistic life with amajor political concern. The women’s movement served as an inspiration for her most monumental works. Her life-size sculptures of prominent suffragists were intended to immortalize the early movement leaders and to convey the sense that what these suffragists did for women was courageous as the actions of the men who founded the Republic.
They conclude:
The symbolism made manifest in this ponderous piece of marble kept the [women's] movement alive. It would become the only monument in Washington honoring the women's suffrage movement. The original inscription placed on the base of the statue by Johnson engendered such a strong negative reaction that members of Congress had it covered with whitewash. Every step of the way the statue has evoked a strong response from one group or another. Its acceptance, the inscription, and now its move to a new location have all been resisted. Still, the support for the monument has prevailed.
The newer, better photo is from Wikimedia here, published under the GNU Free Documentation License. The older one,presumably a newspaper grab-and-grin, ishere on Wikimedia, sourced from the National Parks Service biography. Johnson is on the left; it is not stated who the other two women are. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

American conference program

The University of Florida has released the programme (or, I should say, program), for Mary Wollstonecraft: Legacies, to be held next week, at Ustler Hall, Gainesville (pictured).
The Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research will host a conference on February 23-24, 2012 to commemorate the 220th anniversary of the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman, a text that has had profound influence on political modernity and on continuing discussions about feminist thought. This conference follows our inaugural conference on Simone de Beauvoir (February 10-11, 2011), and is the second in a series that will commemorate the re-reading of key feminist texts and the legacies of major feminist thinkers.
Thursday 23 February
4:30-6:00: Panel Discussion on Wollstonecraft’s Legacies
Anita Anatharam, Rachel Rebouché, Stephanie Smith, Louise Newman, and Judith Page, moderator (all University of Florida)

Friday 24 February
Sheryl Kroen, Associate Professor of History, UF, “Writing Women's Lives: the Case of Mary Wollstonecraft”
Kari Lokke, Professor of Comparative Literature, UC-Davis, “Grasping at Immortality:
Forms of Freedom in Mary Wollstonecraft's Scandinavian Letters.”
Anne K. Mellor, Distinguished Professor of English and Women’s Studies, UCLA,
“Wollstonecraft, Austen and the Problems at Mansfield Park”
Moderator: Pamela Gilbert (University of Florida)

Wendy Gunther-Canada, Professor and Chair of Political Science, UA-Birmingham,
“Disinherited Daughters: Wollstonecraft and the Politics of Female Birthright”.
Daniel O’Neill, Associate Professor of Political Science, UF, “Mary Wollstonecraft and Democracy”
Danaya Wright, Professor of Law, UF, “Mary Wollstonecraft’s Unintended Legacy: The Normative Contours of the Parens Patriae Jurisdiction and the Changing Face of Legal Interference in the Family”
Moderator: Ed White (University of Florida)

A talk by Anne Mellor, Distinguished Professor of English and Women’s Studies, UCLA, “Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman and the Problems of Liberal Feminism,” followed by discussion

More details here and the full program(me) here (pdf). The long breaks between the sessions, when lots of interesting conversations are bound to happen, are well judged. When I first wrote of this conference, Janet Todd was giving the keynote talk; now, apparently not, alas.

Perhaps you'd prefer the philosophers' day-long symposium in Sweden. Bear in mind that Lund is just up the road (in the European sense) from Malmo. Malmo, across the bridge from Copenhagen, has a programme to experience Swedish hospitality -- supper (and maybe party games) with the locals.  No promises that the mayor will invite you to camp in his garden shed; details here, or maybe not....

Addendum: I had forgotten, or not known, that Janet Todd gained her PhD at the University of Florida. The Guardian's Higher Education profile (by John Sutherland, with whom I have a question outstanding) says:
She wanted to do Mary Wollstonecraft "but nobody had heard of her". So she did her doctoral work on the rustic poet John Clare. They hadn't heard of him, either, but the name was reassuringly masculine. Todd's supervisor died mid-thesis, so her research was uninterfered with - something she has always preferred.

Photo: Ustler Hall is, according to Wikipedia , "the only freestanding campus building in the United States devoted solely to Women’s Studies [...and...] the first building on the UF campus renamed to honor a woman." (First, or only, I wonder?) 
I do appreciate the coincidence linking it to the German Gymnasium near MW's first grave: 
"I wish to persuade women to endeavor to acquire strength, both of mind and body".  
The image was taken by Douglas Whittaker and is used under a GNU Free Documentation License.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Vindication, from Philosophy Bro

Philosophy is hard - I read and summarize, so you don't have to, man.
So this month we are looking at Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and how that dense eighteenth century prose - polemic and philosophical - has been adapted to the needs of the readers of today. We looked at resources old and new and squashed. The most irreverent version I've come across is the Philosophy Bro, snugly anonymous (yes, I do mean snugly, as in sitting snugly by the fire)  - "just a bro who likes philosophy" - and takes requests: "Maybe you've got a big paper coming up, and you haven't done the reading. Maybe there's this guy you've heard about, but you don't have the time to wade through the text yourself. Whatever, bro, I don't judge." He also has a clear copying policy, less generous than the Squashed Philosopher, but completely fair, allowing anyone to "excerpt your favorite paragraph or two and link to the rest of it". So that's what I'll do here.

His take on A Vindication starts  
Do you want to know why women fit your stereotypes of stupid, silly creatures? Because they're taught that it's the only way to be. That's what happens when all the bros running education just want pretty idiots to take as mistresses instead of smart ladies to take as wives. Every girl is being taught by these assholes, so if you're frustrated that your wife is like a mistress who spends her time shopping instead of putting out, stop pointing fingers, bro. No wonder she wants nothing more than to shop and drink tea - I don't care how resilient you are, twenty years of being told pretty is the highest value and eventually anyone would start to believe it.
And ends with:
Look, if you want women to stop being weak, stupid complainers who waste money, start educating them. Even I think women are dumb as shit, and I am one. They read bullshit romances and believe in horoscopes and thinks with their hearts instead of their brains. And for thousands of years you've been like, "What's up with dumb bitches?" all while you crank them the fuck out like it's your job. It's time to try something new: teach them reason, and see if they aren't more reasonable. Let them think, and see if they don't. Encourage them to raise their kids and be kind to their servants, and see if they aren't so moody all the time.

In conclusion, it's no fucking wonder bros are awesome; women could be great too, if you would just let them. 
The comments are interesting. "An Art Professor" writes:
I just checked out your tshirts. What is up with the bitches ones? That's never going to be ok. It perpetuates "with humor" the lasting, brutally damaging stereotypes that we still suffer from. Humor about "hoes" and bitches" is one of the most insidious and fucked up things that still lingers.
One response, half a year later:
Dear "Art Professor", it's okay, calm down. You're just "of a different generation", so to speak.
- an anti-kyriarchal (post?)feminist
Another, perhaps the most heartening:
As a bro - and one who read Wollstonecraft - I would like to thank you so much for this piece. I've always believed that real men are Feminists, because strong bro's have nothing to fear from equality, and smart women, confident women are hot!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mary and Valentine's Day

As they say in exam booklets, 
or on the pdf scans of documents:

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Vindication, squashed

Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which turns 220 years old this month, can be tough going if you are not used to eighteenth century prose. Fortunately, it has been interpreted and condensed (and not just my paragraph-long attempt). Last week we looked at a recap of resources and some new ones too. Today, we offer you a version which "reduces the original 85,000 words by nearly 90%, but, as Wollstonecraft is an unusually repetitive writer, no great amount of her sense has been lost." It promises to deliver in 50 minutes.

It's the most radical shrinking I've yet presented (though stay tuned for next time). Squashed Philosophers exists to condense " ...the big books, the ones which defined the way The West thinks now, in their original words, neatly abridged down into little afternoons reads." It is all the work of one man, on such a shoestring he doesn't even have a domain name. Three cheers for Glyn Hughes of Lancashire, and here's to the power of the amateur! I love his generous and clear copyright waiver, "so that anyone anywhere (who hasn't been told not to) may reproduce these pages for any non-commercial purpose". I like the way he invites readers to get in touch: "Complaints are especially welcome." Worryingly, weirdly, he claims his website "has repeatedly been subject to serious, targeted, cyber attack. Are mad fundamentalists or wicked States attempting to destroy this grand disseminator of truth and enquiry? Or just geeks with too much spare time?"

So here is the task he has set himself:
For more than a decade Squashed Philosophers has been here to provide a way of making some sort of sense of the writings of The Western Philosophers. It lets you get to grips with a great idea in an hour or so, whether that's to prepare yourself for something bigger, or just for the joy of discovery. These versions are not complete and they're not perfect, but they do let you do something the originals can't - get for yourself a sort of grand overview of the whole universe of ideas, without having to just take other people's word for it. You'll love them.
He starts with a biography, to put her magnum opus in context:
At the heart of Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women, are the twin virtues of freedom of thought and devotion to family. Few people have so well combined the two as Mary herself, the presiding matriarch of one of the most remarkable families of free-thinkers the West has ever seen. A self-taught London teacher, Mary and her sister Eliza became convinced that the girls they attempted to enlighten were already enslaved by a social training that subordinated them to men....  Mary Wollstonecraft may be the "mother of feminism", yet, for all that she was called a "hyena in petticoats", by today's standards she seems somewhat prudish and more than modest in her aims. She does not lay any claim to equal opportunity for women, but rather allows for the sort of variation in the roles of the sexes which her sucessors might now call 'difference feminism'.
It promises to deliver in 50 minutes. "This condensed edition reduces the original 85,000 words by nearly 90%, but, as Wollstonecraft is an unusually repetitive writer, no great amount of her sense has been lost." However, if you don't have time for almost 10, 000 words, try this distillation:

Mary Wollstonecraft, 1792
A Vindication of the Rights of Women
"I do not wish them to have power over men;
but over themselves."
I have a profound conviction that women are rendered weak and wretched, especially by a false system of education, gathered from books written by men who have been more anxious to make of women alluring mistresses than rational wives. The DIVINE RIGHT of husbands, like the divine right of kings, may, it is to be hoped, in this enlightened age, be contested without danger. Men, in their youth, are prepared for professions, but women can only look to marriage to sharpen their faculties. Yet, novels, music, poetry and gallantry all tend to make women creatures of sensation. 
"Educate women like men," says Rousseau, "and the less power will they have over us." This is my point. I do not wish them to have power over men; but over themselves. Rousseau holds that women ought to be weak and passive. Dr. Fordyce and Dr. Gregory's advice to women are full of old prejudices. Modesty is a great virtue, O my sisters, but modesty is incompatible with ignorance and vanity! 
Though I consider that women in the common walks of life are called to be wives and mothers, I lament that women of a superior cast have no way to pursue usefulness and independence. I really think that women ought to have representatives, instead of being arbitrarily governed without any share in the deliberations of government. Taxes on the very necessaries of life support an endless tribe of idle princes. Women might study medicine, politics and business. Women would not then marry for a support. 
Parental affection is often but a pretext to tyrannize. Children cannot be taught too early to submit to reason; but it is unreasoned parental authority that first injures the mind. I think that schools are now hot-beds of vice and folly. Day schools should be established by government, in which boys and girls might be educated together. Humanity to animals should be particularly inculcated. 
Belief in horoscopes is one of the worst affectations of women. Stupid, sentimental novels are another, as is an immoderate savage-like fondness for dress, for pleasure and sway. The majority of mothers leave their children entirely to the care of servants: or treat them as if they were demi-gods, yet such women seldom show common humanity to servants. Let woman share the rights, and she will emulate the virtues of man.