Mary Wollstonecraft

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Mary Wollstonecraft

Introduction to Mary Wollstonecraft

Born on 27 April 1759, Mary Wollstonecraft was a famous and a well established philosopher, writer and also an advocate for the rights of women. During her brief carrier she wrote novels, treatises, a travel narrative, a history of the French Revolution, a conduct book, and a children’s book. But most famous of   Mary Wollstonecraft’s writing was “Vindication of the Rights of Woman” which came out in 1792. Which is famously known to be one of the earliest work of feminist philosophy. In this, Mary Wollstonecraft urged for women to be given more freedom and more rights. she claimed that women were never inferior to men in anything and the only reason it seemed that way was because they lacked education as women were not given proper education as it was believed during that time period that women do require any formal education as all that was expected of them was to look after their family children and all the house hold. She suggested that both the genders should be treated equally and more importantly as living beings.

Birth and Early life of Mary Wollstonecraft

Wollstonecraft was born on 27 April 1759 in Spitalfields, London. She was the second among the seven children of Elizabeth Dixon and Edward John Wollstonecraft. During her childhood her family was well off but gradually their condition worsened and eventually their family became financially unstable. The family’s financial situation eventually became so dire that Wollstonecraft’s father compelled her to turn over money that she would have inherited at her maturity. Her father was a violent man and he would often brutally beat Mary Wollstonecraft’s mother when drunk.

Life as an individual

Having just written the Rights of Woman, Wollstonecraft was determined to put her ideas to the test, and in the stimulating intellectual atmosphere of the French Revolution, she attempted her most experimental romantic attachment yet. This is when she met Gilbert Imlay an adventurer and eventually fell in love with him, this was the time when she decided to put her own principles and believes into practice. she started sleeping with him even though they weren’t marry despite knowing the fact that this was not acceptable for a respectable English women to do such a practice. It was about unclear if  Wollstonecraft wanted to be married to him but he clearly had no interest in marrying her. She later got pregnant and by Imlay, and on 14 May 1794 she gave birth to her first child, Fanny, naming her after her closest friend. Even though in her pregnancy she did not stop her work and continued to work. The winter 1794-95 was a very cruel and extreme one as many people died of hunger and cold, she kept writing to Imlay asking him to return to France claiming that she still had faith in the revolution but there was no response from Imlay.  After she left France on 7 April 1795, she continued to refer to herself as ‘Mrs Imlay’, even to her sisters, in order to bestow legitimacy upon her child even though they had not married.

When she returned to London in april 1795 seeking Imlay, he clearly rejected her upon which she tried to commit suicide but was saved by Imlay. She then went for a business negotiation to help Imlay in order to win him over but as she returned she realized that it was over and no matter how hard she try she cannot convince him to marry her he wouldn’t marry her. Seeing that she again tried to commit suicide by jumping in a river but a stranger had seen her jump and so she was rescued. She had also left a note for Imlay before she attempted suicide in which she wrote:

Let my wrongs sleep with me! Soon, very soon, shall I be at peace. When you receive this, my burning head will be cold … I shall plunge into the Thames where there is the least chance of my being snatched from the death I seek. God bless you! May you never know by experience what you have made me endure. Should your sensibility ever awake, remorse will find its way to your heart; and, in the midst of business and sensual pleasure, I shall appear before you, the victim of your deviation from rectitude.

After this she gradually went back to her literary work and a little later once again fell in love again but this time it was love on both ends. Godwin and Wollstonecraft’s unique courtship began slowly, but it eventually became a passionate love affair. He read all her letters written in different languages and to him her emotions were priceless and he later wrote:  “If ever there was a book calculated to make a man in love with its author, this appears to me to be the book. She speaks of her sorrows, in a way that fills us with melancholy, and dissolves us in tenderness, at the same time that she displays a genius which commands all our admiration.”

Later when Wollstonecraft got pregnant with his child they married to make their affair legal. This marriage lift the curtains from her lie and every one found out that she had never been married to Imlay, because of this they both lost many friends and faced many criticism but he never left her.

Birth & Death of Mary Wollstonecraft

  On 30 August 1797, Wollstonecraft gave birth to her second daughter, Mary. Although the delivery seemed to go well initially, the placenta broke apart during the birth and became infected; childbed fever was a common and often fatal occurrence in the eighteenth century. After several days of agony, Wollstonecraft died on 10 September. Godwin was devastated: he wrote to his friend Thomas, “I firmly believe there does not exist her equal in the world. I know from experience we were formed to make each other happy. I have not the least expectation that I can now ever know happiness again.” She was buried at Old Saint Pancras Churchyard, where her tombstone reads, “Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: Born 27 April 1759: Died 10 September 1797.

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