Here’s my final for the Ladies of Literature zine project, organized by the wonderful Arielle Jovellanos. I chose Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley - the author of Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus at age 19.

Mary was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, prominent feminist, and William Godwin, prominent anarchist. Quite a bit of those influences manifest in her works and letters, as she obsessively studied the works of both of her parents throughout her life.

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

Women are systematically degraded by receiving the trivial attentions which men think it manly to pay to the sex, when, in fact, men are insultingly supporting their own superiority…

I do not wish [women] to have power over men; but over themselves…

Women ought to have representatives, instead of being arbitrarily governed without any direct share allowed them in the deliberations of government…

If women be educated for dependence; that is, to act according to the will of another fallible being, and submit, right or wrong, to power, where are we to stop?


Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)

Mary was not permitted to walk in the garden; but sometimes, from her window, she turned her eyes from the gloomy walls, in which she pined life away, on the poor wretches who strayed along the walks, and contemplated the most terrific of ruins — that of a human soul.

— Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary and The Wrongs of Woman

In September 1797, Mary Wollstonecraft, writer, philosopher, and advocate of women’s rights, died.

During her brief career, Mary wrote novels, treatises, a travel narrative, a history of the French Revolution, a conduct book, and a children’s book. Wollstonecraft is best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education. She suggests that both men and women should be treated as rational beings and imagines a social order founded on reason.

This quote is taken from Mary and The Wrongs of Woman, a fictional sequel to the Vindication. In both novels the heroines have to rely on their own resources to establish their independence and intellectual development. Mary learns to take control of her destiny and become a social philanthropist, while Maria, in The Wrongs of Woman, fights imprisonment and a loveless marriage to claim her rights.

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Image: Mary Wollstonecraft by John Opie, c. 1797. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.


April 27th 1759: Mary Wollstonecraft born

On this day in 1759, the British women’s rights advocate Mary Wollstonecraft was born in London. She was also a writer and is best known for her 1792 work ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men and argues the importance of female education. She died aged 38 after giving birth to her second daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later became Mary Shelley), who went on to write ‘Frankenstein’. Wollstonecraft is remembered as a leading feminist philosopher.

Mary Wollstonecraft was born in Spitalfields, London on this day in 1759. She would become was a writer, philosopher, and advocate of women’s rights; and the mother of Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein).

"Nothing, I am sure, calls forth the faculties so much as the being obliged to struggle with the world."

―from “Thoughts on the Education of Daughters, Matrimony”(1787), by Mary Wollstonecraft