Mary Wollstonecraft


“It is with a heavy heart I have to admit that either nature has made considerable difference between people and people, or that civilization so far hasn’t come very far”

Mary Wollstonecraft

These are word said by the person who is said to be one of the first feminists, and a woman who is still a great source of inspiration for many feminists of today. Mary Wollstonecraft was not afraid to say what she thought, even though her ideas were far ahead of her own time. Mary Wollstonecraft was born in Britain but moved to France during the time of the French revolution to be in the centre of the conflict.  While living in Paris she had a daughter which she called Fanny with an American called Gilbert Imlay. Back in England a few years later she married a philosopher called William Godwin. Their daughter were called Mary as well, and later she became Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (the author of Frankenstein), not to be confused with her mother.


Wollstonecraft approved the slogans of the revolution: Liberté, Égalité et Fraternité, which in English means Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood, except for the last one, brotherhood since she thought that this one actually excluded half of the population; the women. Probably that was not really what people meant by using this word. But I assume that Mary Wollstonecraft was tired of the unwritten law that nothing ever concerned women. The declaration of rights, which was written right after the revolution, was called “Tout les droits de l´homme”. In this case the word ”homme” in the meaning of humans in general. But as you might be aware of, ”homme” also means ”man” and it was like that most people without further consideration interpreted it. To most people it was obvious that the declaration concerned men only since women did not fill any real function in the community these days, more than, of course, delighting their husbands. There was nothing strange or wrong about that. This opinion was, however, not shared by Mary Wollstonecraft. She wanted reality to match the word in the meaning of all humans better.


She wrote a lot of texts, one of the most famous are for example “A vindication to the rights of women”, in which she criticized the general male norm and typical women’s work such as embroideries and needlework. Some women had access to education but the education only concerned this kind of work. 


What caught my interest in this quote is the part saying “…civilization so far hasn’t come very far”. This sentence indicates that she was certain about the fact that women were going to play a bigger role in the society in the future. I think it is very perceptive to be able to consider your own society being old-fashioned while you are living in the middle of it. For most people it is easier to see such things from some sort of distance. Now, the question is; was she right?


Victoria Gunnerek

Postat av: Kajsa

Nice article Victoria!

Our civilization has come a bit further than the one that Mary Wollstonecraft lived in, but still today men and women aren't equal. We are ,men and women, both human beings so why should we be treated differently? Hopefully we will someday all be equal.

2011-04-08 @ 21:02:29
Postat av: Victoria

Thank you for spending some of your time reading my article Kajsa, makes me happy!

Of course society is not yet equal. But isn't it quite cool that Mary Wollstonecraft was able to see that there would be possible to have a more equal society? I think that is the core of our belief that we could achieve an even more equal society if we just tried!

2011-04-14 @ 15:47:45

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