Wollstonecraft

Wollstonecraft

[wool-stuhn-kraft, ‐krahft]
Wollstonecraft, Mary, 1759-97, English author and feminist, b. London. She was an early proponent of educational equality between men and women, expressing this radical opinion in Thoughts on the Education of Daughters (1786). Her most important book, A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), was the first great feminist document. She also wrote several novels. In Paris, where she lived with an American, Gilbert Imlay, during much of the French Revolution, she was close to many of the Revolution's leading political figures. After the birth (1794) of a daughter, Fanny, Imlay deserted her, and in 1797 she married William Godwin. She died within days of giving birth to another daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who married Percy Bysshe Shelley.

See W. Godwin, Memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (1798); biographies by C. Tomalin (1974), E. Sunstein (1975), J. Lorch (1990), J. Todd (2000), D. Jacobs (2001), and L. Gordon (2005); studies by J. Bouten (1975), M. Poovey (1984), M. Ferguson and J. Todd (1984), A. Meena (1989), S. M. Conger (1994), H. D. Jump, ed. (1994 and 2003); M. J. Falco, ed. (1996), A. Tauchert (2002), and B. Taylor (2003).

Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin), detail, oil on canvas by John Opie, c. 1797; in the National Portrait elipsis

(born April 27, 1759, London, Eng.—died Sept. 10, 1797, London) English writer. She taught school and worked as a governess and as a translator for a London publisher. Her early Thoughts on the Education of Daughters (1787) foreshadowed her mature work on the place of women in society, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), whose core is a plea for equality in the education of men and women. The Vindication is widely regarded as the founding document of modern feminism. In 1797 she married the philosopher William Godwin; she died days after the birth of their daughter, Mary (see Mary Shelley), that same year.

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orig. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, detail of an oil painting by Richard Rothwell, first exhibited 1840; elipsis

(born Aug. 30, 1797, London, Eng.—died Feb. 1, 1851, London) English Romantic novelist. The only daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, she met and eloped with Percy B. Shelley in 1814. They married in 1816 after his first wife committed suicide. Mary Shelley's best-known work is Frankenstein (1818), a narrative of the dreadful consequences of a scientist's artificially creating a human being. After her husband's death in 1822, she devoted herself to publicizing his writings and educating their son. Of her several other novels, the best, The Last Man (1826), is an account of the future destruction of the human race by a plague.

Learn more about Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft with a free trial on Britannica.com.

orig. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, detail of an oil painting by Richard Rothwell, first exhibited 1840; elipsis

(born Aug. 30, 1797, London, Eng.—died Feb. 1, 1851, London) English Romantic novelist. The only daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, she met and eloped with Percy B. Shelley in 1814. They married in 1816 after his first wife committed suicide. Mary Shelley's best-known work is Frankenstein (1818), a narrative of the dreadful consequences of a scientist's artificially creating a human being. After her husband's death in 1822, she devoted herself to publicizing his writings and educating their son. Of her several other novels, the best, The Last Man (1826), is an account of the future destruction of the human race by a plague.

Learn more about Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin), detail, oil on canvas by John Opie, c. 1797; in the National Portrait elipsis

(born April 27, 1759, London, Eng.—died Sept. 10, 1797, London) English writer. She taught school and worked as a governess and as a translator for a London publisher. Her early Thoughts on the Education of Daughters (1787) foreshadowed her mature work on the place of women in society, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), whose core is a plea for equality in the education of men and women. The Vindication is widely regarded as the founding document of modern feminism. In 1797 she married the philosopher William Godwin; she died days after the birth of their daughter, Mary (see Mary Shelley), that same year.

Learn more about Wollstonecraft, Mary with a free trial on Britannica.com.

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