This year’s theme for Women’s History Month is Women’s Education-Women’s Empowerment, a subject that is at the heart of the work of one of the first feminists. Mary Wollstonecraft was born in England in 1759. Mary struck out on her own at an early age to work, eventually setting up a school with her sisters and friend Fanny Blood. When the school failed and Mary became dissatisfied with her options for employment, she decided to become a writer. She was in France during the Revolution and wrote An Historical and Moral View of the French Revolution, which was published in 1794. Her most famous work, though, was A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects. Written in 1792, Wollstonecraft argues that women should be educated since they will in turn educate children, and women can and should be equals to men in some areas of life. Mary’s dramatic personal life overshadowed her work for years after her death (she had numerous love affairs and an illegitimate daughter in addition to her daughter with philosopher William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of Frankenstein) but her ideas found life again with the women’s suffrage movement in the late nineteenth century. (Read about Crawfordsville’s own famous suffragist, Elizabeth Boynton Harbert, at our Local History blog).
Visit the library and check out Mary Wollstonecraft for yourself. Lyndall Gordon’s Vindication: A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft was on the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2005 list. A fictional account of Mary’s life, Vindication, was written in 1993 by South Bend teacher Frances Sherwood. And Mary’s most influential work can be found through interlibrary loan or as a free download from google books.