Who are Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin? What did William Godwin reveal in the novel, Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman that caused such a scandalous outcry from Mary Wollstonecraft’s readers? Why were these revelations so scandalous to begin with? The following essay will attempt to detail Godwin’s scandal, his reasoning behind the revelations that involved suicide attempts and affairs, as well as the public views and placement of women within the era. This paper will explain much history of all those involved, from Wollstonecraft herself, to Godwin and the British subjects.
Mary Wollstonecraft is the second of seven children. Originally from a family of comfortable wealth, her father squandered their money making them financially unstable. While she was raised in similar fashion to all women of the era, her father’s violent rages caused her to become a maternal protector of her mother and sisters. Wollstonecraft would sleep outside her mother’s room to keep her father from beating her, and in her twenties, she convinced her sister Eliza to leave her husband and child while she suffered postpartum depression, challenging the social norms.
As a woman, her education was lacking, which was the custom for one of female sex, especially one living without financial stability. While she did not receive a formal education, her own desires for knowledge and her talents for translating and reviewing work gave her the opportunity to meet various authors and personalities such as Kant, Pain, and Godwin. Wollstonecraft translated texts as if they were hers, re-writing most of them.
During her time translating texts, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote for the Analytical Review. It was working for the periodical that caused her to write a piece defending her friend Richard Price against Edmund Burke’s attack on his speech A Discourse on the Love of our Country. Wollstonecraft’s rebut came in the form of her first publicly acclaimed novel, A Vindication of the Rights of Men, first published anonymously but republished with her name, establishing her as a political writer.
Mary Wollstonecraft’s novel, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects criticised the education that women were given as keeping them from meeting social expectations and guaranteeing an unhappy life. She also condemned marriage as a property relation. The novel, a large essay, insisted women could be more than simply ornaments for society, that to receive greater education would permit them to better educate the nation’s children and to become companions to their husbands. Wollstonecraft argued that women ought to receive a rational education to be able to contribute to society. Within the preface of the novel, Wollstonecraft states, “my main argument is built on this simple principle, that if [women] be not prepared by education to become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of knowledge, for...