4/ CRITICAL From reading the opening pages of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman write what you think is Mary’s most important advice to women of her time.
Early British feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft, who is known as the founder of first wave feminism, wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman as a response to political theorists of the 18th century who did not believe that women should have an education.
Her advocacy for women’s rights stimulated important changes in society such as granting women the right to an education. She argued that education should not be exclusive to men, and that the right to an education is a human right, regardless of one’s sex. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman essentially explores the power and capability of women, thus breaking the objectifying view of women: “men who, considering females rather as women than human creatures”, the word choice of “human” implies that women weren’t viewed as humans but rather as sexual objects, which highlights the sexist and misogynistic attitudes towards women. Another quote that exemplifies this is when she states: “marriage may become more sacred: your young men may choose wives from motives of affection, and your maidens allow love to root out vanity”. This suggests that men are supposed to marry women for the right reasons and that men’s objectification of women stops men and women from having sacred relationships.
Wollstonecraft also stresses the importance of allowing women to be role models for their children:
If children are to be educated to understand the true principle of patriotism, their mother must be a patriot; and the love of mankind, from which an orderly train of virtues spring, can only be produced by considering the moral and civil interest of mankind; but the education and situation of woman, at present, shuts her out from such a investigations.
This shows the power of what educated parents can do, as they teach their children, and children are society’s future.
When I was recently on a train commuting to my placement for teaching, I noticed all the women around me wearing their work uniforms and realised how far we’ve come as a society as a result of Wollstonecraft and other feminists prompt for change.
Lynch, Deidre Shauna, and Jack Stillinger. Volume D: The Romantic Period. 9th ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2012. Print.