Mary Wollstoncraft's, The Vindication of the Rights of Women
Mary Wollstoncraft's book, "The Vindication of the Rights of Women," is an incredibly insightful look into the life of women in the early portion of this century. It is a philosophical examination of the condition of women, in relationship to some very basic rights, and is also a very enlightening look at how short a distance we really have come, as a society, in relationship to our perceptions of women. Wollstoncraft presents herself as an incredibly enlightened individual who looks at her gender as a subject which should be seen as reasonable creatures, rather than brutes or heroines.
She begins her book with words which clearly illustrate her
concerns: "After considering the historic page, and viewing the living world with anxious solicitude, the most melancholy emotions of sorrowful indignation have depressed my spirits, and I have sighed when obliged to confess that either Nature has made a great difference between man and man, or that the civilization which has hitherto taken place in the world has been very partial. I have turned over various books written on the subject of education, and patiently observed the conduct of parents and the management of schools; but what has been the result?--a profound conviction that the neglected education of my fellow-creatures is the grand source of the misery I deplore, and that women, in particular, are rendered weak and wretched by a variety of concurring causes, originating from one hasty conclusion."
From this excerpt we can clearly understand that Wollstoncraft is not merely venting anger and describing realities that are false. She is not necessarily angry or bitter about the realities she sees before her, but rather, is puzzled and seems determined to somehow understand what it is that causes the realities she sees. While there is the use of some negative words such as "weak" and "wretched," these are essentially words of the time and they only further the truth of what the author is witness to. Here is a woman who is of obvious intelligence who is witness to the misunderstanding that appears to follow all women around. She illustrates that women are denied the ability to openly obtain a useful education, but rather kept ignorant and put upon this undeniable pedestal that insists women do not need to possess such knowledge, for it would likely "ruin their pretty little faces."
Wollstoncraft's book is full of lines such as the following: But not content with this natural preeminence, men endeavor to sink us still lower, merely to render us alluring objects for a moment; and women, intoxicated by the adoration which men, under the influence of their senses, pay them, do not seek to obtain a durable interest in their hearts, or to become the friends of the fellow-creatures who find amusement in their society." She details, over and over, how each and every situation somehow illustrates how men and women are not equal, and how...