Classic: Mary Wollstonecraft
- Author: M. Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)
- Title: A Vindication of the Rights of Women
- Published: 1792
- Genre: philosophy
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Mary never had a formal education and she taught herself by
reading and working for a Scottish publication ‘Analytical Review’.
She wrote in her ‘peak’ 30 reviews per issue. Now that is a lot of reading…thinking….and writing. I guess she did like ‘namedropping’ .
Mary thought education/understanding (SENSE) was the touchstone…the standard by which judgement was made….and not as was the case by many women
being influenced by a gush of emotion! (SENSIBILITY)
This book needs a good eye to skim the ‘padding’ and get the Wollstonecraft’s important message. chapters 1-5 are the longest….then is it much easier.
One of my favorite chapters was 11 ‘Duty of Parents ( easy read and very short)
“The parent forms the heart and enlarges the
understanding of his child, has given the discharge of a duty.”
- A Vindication of the Rights of Women
- …is a document of 85.000 words (13 chapters, 222 pages)
- Wollstonecraft is an unusually repetitive writer
- ….and a lover of long quotes from Rousseau!
- This work could be condensed by 90 %
- …with no great amount of her sense lost.
Who was Mary Wollstonecraft?
- An in depth portrait of the author can be found here
- 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
- At the heart of Vindication of the Rights of Woman
- are the twin virtues of freedom of thought and devotion to family.
What is The Vindications in a nut shell?
- The document is a response to the many
- ‘Conduct Manuals’ circulating at the time.
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Emilius; Or, An Essay On Education. (1763)
- Dr. James Fordyce: Sermons To Young Women (1766)
- Dr. John Gregory: A Father’s Legacy To His Daughters (1774)
- Baroness De Stael: Corinne (1807)
- Mrs. Piozzi: Letters To And From The Late Samuel Johnson LL.D. (1788)
- Madame De Genlis: Adelaide And Theodore (1783)
- Hester Chapone: Letters On The Improvement Of The Mind (1773)
- Catherine Macaulay: Letters On Education (1790)
Reading strategy: 16 hours total reading
- Read the chapters preferably early in the day
- …with some strong coffee
- …when your mind is fresh.
- Wollstonecraft defends women
- against anti-feminist poets, clergymen,
- physicians and philosophers!
- She had read them all!
- Ch 1-3 – I took it slowly…just one chapter a day. = 5 hours
- Ch 4 – 5 = 5 hr
- Ch 6-7-8-9 took only 2,5 hours to read.
- I’m learning to skim..many extra paragraphs that
- are written to illustrate a single point
- example: ch 8: men becoming soldiers and statesmen
- or women who need representative is government.
- MW loves to elaborate on a proverbs
- …and more episodical observations.
- Ch 10-11-12-13 = 3,5 hr
- Novels, music, poetry, and gallantry,
- all tend to make women the creatures of sensation.
- Wollstonecraft: rejected the sentimental novel’s depiction of women
- silly shallow creature of emotion.
- Jane Austen: never mentioned Wollstonecraft by name
- …but several of her novels contain positive
- allusions to Wollstonecraft’s work….especially Sense and Sensibllity!
- “ …reason is absolutely necessary to enable a woman to perform any duty properly,
- .. and I must again repeat, that sensibility is not reason!”
- This was a great read….it really was!
- Warning: You just cannot rush the reading…it is too dense!
- I had to get used Wollstonecraft’s style
- She uses the ‘ask questions style.
- chapter 5 – 75 questions
- chapter 12 – (31x)
- chapter 13 – (29x)
- You have been warned!
- After reading 8 chapters
- ….I realized Wollstonecraft’s book
- is filled with self-indulgent verbiage.
- It is exasperating to read at times.
- Now I’ve decided to read the chapter
- selecting the CORE idea from each paragraph.
- I’m letting the rants against Rousseau flits by.
- Redundant questions per chapter
- …are getting only a glance from me.
- I get it….Wollstonecraft and Rousseau
- ….will never see eye to eye!
- I’ve finally finished A Vindication of the Rights of Women
- …and feel sad.
- I only wish I was given this piece of literature as a
- sophomore in high-school.
- It would have enlightened me more than the
- Catholic nuns who were part of the
- “pestiferous purple (pg 83)…which renders the
- progress of civilization a curse, and warps the understanding.”
- Wollstonecraft was well-read..for a woman of her times!
- Here are a few on the items she mentions:
- Lord Francis Bacon
- Shakespeare: Hamlet
- Thomas Day: British author
- Job 38:11
- Matthew 25: 14-30 the parable of the five talents
- Philippians 4:7
- Mr David Hume
- S. Richardson (Clarissa)
- King Louis XIV
- Dr. Adam Smith: Scottish philosopher (Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759)
- Gottfried von Leibniz (1646-1716) German philosopher
- Sir Edwin Sandys, English politician
- Lord Chesterfield’s Letters: (on education)
- Vicesimus Knox (1752-1821) essayist, headmaster, Anglican priest
- Lucretia: ancient Roman noblewoman
- Dr. S. Johnson
- John Locke
- Jonathan Swift
- Charles James Fox, politician (1749-1806)
- Alexander Pope: 1743, Epistle to a Lady