Women in History: Mary Wollstonecraft

Feminist writer and intellectual Mary Wollstonecraft left her childhood home and abusive father as a young woman to make her own living. Her first venture was to start a school in 1784 with her sister, Eliza, and best friend, Fanny. But the grief of Fanny’s death in 1785 led Mary to look for other work; first, as a governess for the Kingsborough family in Ireland, and later as a translator for Joseph Johnson, who was an established publisher of radical texts.

Mary became a regular contributor of Johnson’s periodical, Analytical Review, from the time it was first launched in 1788. Four years later, she published her most famous work “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,” in which she expressed clear disdain for confining women to the household and declared that educational reform was needed in which men and women were given equal access to education. This piece, as well as “Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman,” which asserted that it was immoral to pretend that women do not possess strong sexual desires, spurred much controversy and were truly revolutionary for her time.

Mary, we celebrate you and your strong, revolutionary voice. For more stories of women who changed history, go here.

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