Mary Wollstonecraft

RTR-author-1024x1024_0025_2 - Mary Wollstonecraft in etching style

“It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world.”
– Wollstonecraft

b. 1759 CE – d. 1797 CE

Mary Wollstonecraft earned her way with two statements of human freedom: A Vindication of the Rights of Man, written in response to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France in 1790, and A Vindication of the Rights of Women, written two years later.

Both works use the inequality of women under the Ancient Regime as the basis of a global critique of that society. A firm believer in education and progress, she saw the emerging middle classes as the vanguard of fundamental change in which the old value of privilege and tradition would be replaced by the broadest notions of equality and freedom.

Wollstonecraft is often heralded as the first modern feminist, and the power and clarity of her prose may maker her the best in that now long tradition. What makes her writing in this genre compelling, and some ways unique, is her insistence that women accept their complicity in creating a society that infantilizes them. The improvement of women’s condition, she argued, will come when they improve themselves, not when external conditions are somehow made to conform to their new expectations. This gospel of women’s self-reliance resonates today with all genders alike.