Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mary and America

Here begins a month with a focus on the United States and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, both separately and together, leading up to the Florida conference, Mary Wollstonecraft: Legacies, which commemorates the 220th anniversary of the publication of her magnum opus

Last July, another auspicious month, I wrote of Mary and the USA, Richard Price and the American Revolution, On the frontier, and Lost daughters in the young United States.

This month, I hope to cover various versions of Vindication, and lots of Americana: statue ideas and exemplars on Fridays, admirers (lost sons as well as daughters, starting with John Adams), special places and people, and events going on right now. In the meantime, if you want more background, I can only recommend Lyndall Gordon's essay, "Mary Wollstonecraft's America".


  1. Are you considering John and Abigail together?
    "Remember the ladies."
    I will look forward to it!

  2. Roberta, Welcome to America! This theme, Mary in America, brings to mind the fact that while in Paris, Mary claimed American citizenship, as protection, during her affair with Gilbert Imlay, who registered her as his wife with the American Embassy.

    As an American myself, I'd be delighted to see her posthumously presented with an honorary Certificate of Citizenship for the U.S. of A. I may have to look into that! :)

  3. Lauren, I must have missed your comment earlier. Yes, I am aware of the "disciple of Wollstencraft" (or however Mr President spelled her name). Stay tuned....

    Doug, thanks for the virtual welcome. (My non-virtual feet have some distance to travel before touching actual frozen Yankee soil.) That Parisian episode intrigues me, too. Mary called herself Mrs Imlay, not only to protect her person during the Revolution (when to be British in France was to be an enemy alien), nor solely to protect her reputation then and later (even her sisters accepted her self-designation as Mrs Imlay). She called herself Mrs Imlay because she regarded Gilbert as her husband, as she was his wife, body and soul. I think the expression is "in the eyes of God". And in the laws and customs of many cultures, in various times and places around the world, for two people to call each other husband and wife, in public, before witnesses, let alone to register with authorities as such -- this open proclamation is what makes a wedded couple, not just an engaged one. So, arguably, Mary and Gilbert were married, albeit not as solidly as she would have wished.

    When feminists and radicals a hundred years later called for a revision of the stale ideas around marriage, they did not, for the most part, doubt the importance of a strong bond between a man and a woman. Their notion of an open union was a dyad entered into freely, that could be left when love had died. It was not, for example, what we would now think of by the phrase "open marriage", nor was it polyamory.

    As for getting Mary a posthumous US citizenship -- what an idea! If you take up the quest, I will follow its every bureaucratic twist and turn. I refer you to Bob Lamm's one-man campaign to liberate her.

    1. Mmmm...Interesting clarification (or expansion) on their union, Roberta. Never really thought about it in that context. I like it!

      Thanks for pointing me to Bob Lamm's story. I enjoyed that.