Fiercely independent and far from conventional Mary Wollstonecraft called for more equality between the sexes; she ignited the flame that would turn into the feminist movement we know today. Wollstonecraft was a key founder of feminist philosophy. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) stated her view that women should have a wider access to education, not taught to depend on their beauty. “A committed women’s liberationist cannot retire from the job, only die at it.” (Dann, 1985) Mary Wollstonecraft encompassed this perfectly.
“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves” (Wollstonecraft, 1995). Women were expected to be passive, Wollstonecraft believed women should have the right to be independent. In New Zealand’s feminist movement of the 1970’s women were lobbying for more than the right to vote which had been attained in 1893. “Yesterday’s suffragettes; today’s marionettes” (Dann, 1985). From equal pay to abortion to the founding of Women’s refuge the society of New Zealand was undergoing a revolution in its own right. Wollstonecraft’s original call for change was still being echoed during New Zealand’s feminist movement; “For years women have been enslaved, thought to be fit only for housekeeping and reproduction. It is time women made a stand for themselves” (Dann, 1985).
Just as Wollstonecraft was slandered because of her unorthodox private life, “New Zealand media has reacted to the new women’s movement by focusing on trivial, personal or sensation aspects, and had left the real issues untouched” (Dann, 1985). In Wollstonecraft’s time and in the feminist movement of the 1970’s, it was easier for people to discredit the person or movement that put forth the ideas rather than challenge the ideas themselves. Vilifying and trivializing the leaders of the movement seemed like the easiest way to stop the reform that was going to be inevitable. In New Zealand women were seeking to educate themselves about great leaders of the past, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) may have been controversial for its time but still remains as Wollstonecraft’s legacy to the feminist movement that would occur decades after her passing.
With education available to everyone in New Zealand it is hard to imagine a time where most women were denied education beyond to “know just enough arithmetic to do household accounts and just enough geography to converse with her husband and friends” (Gordon, 2005). When women were not valued as equals Wollstonecraft believed that women should be educated and emancipated. “Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience” (Wollstonecraft, 1995). While there are more opportunities for women in terms of education; they are underrepresented in fields such as science and technology (Huhman, 2012), although this is slowly changing. In New Zealand there have been two female heads of government (Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark) who are evidence of how far...