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Mary Wollstonecraft - Mother of Feminism

Taught from infancy that beauty is a woman's sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.

Mary Wollstonecraft, “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”, 1792.

“The first of the new Genus”, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), an English Writer, radical thinker and advocate of women’s rights, is referred to as the “mother of Feminism”. Born in London, Wollstonecraft started her writing career highlighting the sensitivity of the education of daughters. She worked as a translator for a London associated publisher who later published several of her works. Wollstonecraft had always been ardent to challenge the conventional norms, which are very apparent from her writings and her efforts to flee Eliza, her sister who was then suffering from postpartum depression. Her most prominent work, “Vindications of the Rights of Woman (1792)”, has received a lot of attention from critics, primarily from women audience. The French Revolution laid the foundation for the shaping of reforming thoughts universally so was with Wollstonecraft, who was now questioning the objectification of the subaltern gender.

“It is time to effect a revolution in female manners, time to restore to them their lost dignity, and make them, as a part of the human species, labour by reforming themselves to reform the world.”

Mary Wollstonecraft, “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”

Her proclamation on the subject and analysis of women’s condition in modern society withholds its original radicalism. The subject remains challenging as her reflection on the stature of the female gender was a deliberate attempt to adhere to a comprehensive discern of human relations in the hierarchical society. Her interest in women rights positioned her with “liberals” of her era. The frame of her thoughts and ideas were accepted as the foundation for a new literary genre, “modern feminism”, and have been ensued till date. Albeit modern society considers feminism and the women’s movement as more of a political ideology, the abstract root of the doctrine extends its attribute from Wollstonecraft’s works. Regarded as the first representative of early modern feminism, her eminent work delineates the complications of gender relations and inequalities pertaining to the inferiority of the other sex prevalent in society.

“It is necessary emphatically to repeat, that there are rights which men inherit at their birth, as rational creatures, who were raised above the brute creation by their improvable faculties; and that, in receiving these, not from their forefathers but, from God, prescription can never undermine natural rights.”

Mary Wollstonecraft, “A Vindication of the Rights of Men”, 1790

Wollstonecraft, affected by the principles of the Enlightenment age, was aware of the exchange of “human nature” of her era. She felicitously put forward the arguments concerning the holistic changes of women which were needed to be initiated. She asserts the importance of inborn natural rights with rational creatures which cannot be eliminated by customs, traditions and prejudices. The work argued about the educational system of the time that contemplated women as incapable and frivolous. And how women could become exceptional in all realms, as a mother, a wife and a worker if equipped with similar rights as men. The authenticity of her thoughts transcended radical reform. The twentieth century recommenced the interest in women’s rights which steered her eminence in modern feminism.


Payal Singh

(A literati with an eye for Shakespeare’s sonnets and W.B. Yeats Romantics, turning the extreme feelings into penned emotions with a tint of Nietzsche and Freud’s attribute. I’ve indulged myself in this writing realm to liberate the tendencies of nihilistic trait and seek immense pleasure whilst bursting out the emotions. A published Co-author of different anthologies and a proud writer of “Missiewhimsy’s Thoughts”. Unveiling my thoughts and opinions on certain facades by interpreting various Literature movements and the leading personalities. To eye an intermixing of different literary eras with the shade of history, psychology and politics.)

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