Wollstonecraft 1759 - 1797 (38)

Virtue can only flourish among equals


A Vindication of

the Rights of Woman

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 - 1797) was an English writer, philosopher, and women's rights activist. She wrote novels, travel impressions, philosophical texts and a history of the French Revolution

Born on April 27, 1759 in Spitalfields, London, the second of seven children of a well-to-do family, whose property was gradually disappeared by the father, the family experienced difficult times of misery and despair. Her father, in times of drunkenness badly beat her mother, Mary as a teenager would lie down outside her mother's bedroom door in order to protect her. From an early age she played a motherly role for her sisters.

Dissatisfied with life at home, Golstoncraft left in 1778 and took a position as a companion to a widow living in Bath. She returned home in 1780 to care for her ailing mother and when she died she left again and worked as a governess. After just one year she decided to live as a writer. This was a radical choice, since, at that time, there were no women who could be sustained by writing. She moved to London and, with the help of liberal publisher Joseph Johnson, found a place to live and work. She learned French and German and began translating and writing texts.

In London she had an affair with the married artist Henry Fuseli, when the scandal broke out she traveled for a while to France where she lived the revolution of 1789. Returning hoime, she wrote "A Vindication of the Rights of Men, 1790" in response to the conservative criticism of an English MP who condemned the French Revolution. Two years later, following the ideas she had described in "Rights of Men", she wrote "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), her most famous and important work.

She left for Paris in December 1792, at a time when Britain and France were on the brink of war and many advised her not to go but she did not listen to anyone. During her stay in Paris she was mainly associated with the moderate Girondins, who came into conflict with the radical Jacobins.

France declared war on Britain in February 1793, and in March, the Jacobin-led Public Security Committee came to power, establishing a totalitarian regime. Life became very difficult, at first the foreigners were placed under police surveillance and in order to obtain a residence permit, they had to submit six written statements of French people who testified to their faith in democracy. Then, on April 12, 1793, all foreigners were forbidden to leave France. Many of her friends lost their heads in the guillotine as the Jacobins began to exterminate all those they considered as their enemies.

Her life was saved because of her relationship with an American adventurer, Imlay. They were not married but lived together as a couple, a fact that was reprehensible and immoral for that time but Mary never paid attention to waht people were saying. Gilbert Imlay managed to break the British naval blockade and bring the necessary goods to France, so he won the favor of the Jacobins and by declaring that he was married to Wollstonecraft, he saved her from big troubles.

Wollstonecraft became pregnant and on May 14, 1794, gave birth to her first daughter. He continued to write frantically, despite the burdens of the new mother but also the growing turmoil due to the political situation in France. While in Havre in northern France, she wrote the Historical and Moral View of the French Revolution, which was published in London in December 1794. Later generations became more interested in her feminist writings than in her narrative. for the French Revolution, which some called it "her best work."

In August 1794, Imlay left for London. The winter of 1794–95 was the coldest in Europe for more than a century, the Thames was frozen, ships could not bring food and wood to Paris, leading to widespread famine and many deaths from the cold. She managed to survive and finally returned to London in April 1795, but Imley rejected her. In May 1795 she tried to commit suicide. Gradually, she returned to her literary life and began a new passionate relationship with the philosopher Godwin, with whom she married and they lived for a while calmly and happily.

On August 30, 1797, she gave birth to her second daughter, Mary. Although the delivery seemed to go well at first, the placenta became infected. Postpartum infection was a common and often fatal phenomenon in the eighteenth century. After ten days of fever and agony, she died of sepsis on September 10. Her daughter will be Mary Shelley, author of Frangenstein.