“A Vindication Of the Rights of woman” (1792), Mary Wollstoncraft

What is a significant way that Wollstonecraft’s vindication of the Rights of Woman is revolutionary?

I think one of the ways that Wollstonecraft’s vindication of the Rights of woman is significant is how she advocates for a reform of women’s education. Wollstonecraft claims that women’s education has prepared women to be dutiful, docile wives and mothers, and that while men’s education prepares men for life in the real world, women’s education only prepares them for what men think women should aspire to be. Wollstonecraft states, “I attribute these problems to a false system of education….who considering females rather as women than human creatures have been more anxious to make them alluring mistresses than affectionate wives and rational mothers.” What I interpreted this quote to mean is that men’s skills determine their value, and in turn earn them respect. Whereas qualities such as beauty and love determine a women’s value, and those qualities is what earns her respect, because a woman is not viewed as an equal ”human creature”, but as an object of man’s affection. Wollstonecraft is saying that women’s virtue should also be determined by their skills and nobility instead of trivial qualities like beauty and love.

Wollstonecraft also states that “for the sake of woman’s dignity she should be allowed to earn a living and support herself.” This is a refute of society’s view of women during this time, which was that the sole purpose of the creation of women was to fall in love with a man, and that the man’s assumed job is to take of the woman. While this may seem like a golden system, in reality this isn’t as great a system as it seems, because it puts unnecessary pressure and expectations on men by creating a toxic masculinity of men, and women should be able to have their own identities and be able to support themselves, that should be a women’s right. This view of women is also revolutionary because during this time men were the only gender that were seen as worthy to have a job, by asserting that women had the right as well to make their own living and support themselves is placing women on the same accord as men which was revolutionary during the 19th century.

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2 thoughts on ““A Vindication Of the Rights of woman” (1792), Mary Wollstoncraft

  1. I definitely agree with you in noting the importance Wollstonecraft places on the proper education of women. She is right to recognize and call out her society for treating women “…as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood,” because it had kept the women from growing intellectually and morally. The patriarchal powers of her society tended to view women in almost a too-romantic way, seeing them as pretty things made for their male counterparts’ pleasure (as you note) but without real substance. Wollstonecraft even goes so far as to argue that women, if they are educated and treated in a way that is respectful of their ability to learn and grow as rational humans, will perform better in their duties as wives and mothers, as they understand the purpose behind what they do and are also given the tools necessary to realize the importance of raising up the next generation in a healthy environment conducive to learning academically and morally. In addition, Wollstonecraft believes that women who are more respected by their husbands will be less likely to philander (as the husbands are less likely to do the same), since both parties will be more respectful of the other and, if a woman encounters a less than faithful husband, she will be able to respond with more class and tact than to go about her business reflecting the philosophy of “an eye for an eye.” Wollstonecraft’s rather controversial statement that a woman should be able to support herself is also worth noting. I would have to disagree that a man being expected to provide for the family creates an environment of toxic masculinity. Someone has to provide for the family, and the women generally took on the role of child-rearer and housekeeper. Both man and wife have responsibilities to keep the home running well- there’s nothing wrong with that. However, the idea that women are incapable of (and should be, therefore, legally incapable of) taking care of themselves does create an atmosphere of toxicity. The fact that women were legally reliant on the male leaders of their families also meant that many women were forced to live in abusive situations; by giving them a way in which to earn their own living, the government is paving the way for women to not only have common human rights, but also a way to live independently without as much fear for their wellbeing.

  2. I like that this piece feels very conversational and that the reader knows that your views are backed up by evidence.
    I wonder if you had any concluding thoughts on the subject. To the reader, it seems as if you just abruptly stop writing.
    Some next steps to think about in your next post are to check capitalization, punctuation, quotation, and other grammatical errors. With your quotes, you did a good job at embedding them in the text but ultimately forgot to add the page or paragraph to which you were referring to.

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