Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1797, died Mary Wollstonecraft.

Wollstonecraft was a political writer who developed into the first feminist. Her early work A Vindication of the Rights of Man, inspired by The French Revolution, was an exposé of the social order and its failure to safeguard human rights. This piece was closely followed by A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which was the first feminist work.

In this work, Wollstonecraft argued that political rights had been ‘confined to the male line since Adam downward’. She called for girls to have the same education as boys, demanded that women should have paid employment as men did and referred to marriage as ‘legalised prostitution’.

This was heavy stuff for the Eighteenth Century. One critic described her as ‘a hyena in petticoats’. Another, thought to be the Cambridge professor Thomas Taylor, published the satirical Vindication of the Rights of Beasts, although Taylor is not seen retrospectively as the originator of The Animal Rights Movement.

Although not taken seriously in her lifetime, Wollstonecraft became the inspiration for the Suffragette Movement and the waves of Feminism, which occurred in the 1920s to 1930s and 1960s to 1970s. Virginia Woolf writing of Wollstonecraft states ‘We hear her voice and trace her influence even now among the living’.

Wollstonecraft gave birth to a daughter, Mary, in 1797 but sadly days shortly after of puerperal fever. Her daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, went on to marry the poet Shelley and write the first horror novel Frankenstein.

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