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Mary Wollstonecraft’s Birthday

April 27, 2015

April 27, 1759.  Strangely enough, today — April 27, 2015 — is also the day before the publication of Romantic Outlaws, the book in which I tell the story of Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley. People look at me blankly when I tell them what my books is about.  Mary Wollstonecraft? They know who Mary Shelley is, or think they do, because of Frankenstein. But no one seems to have heard of Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman, or any of Wollstonecraft’s pioneering escapades.

So, in honor of her birthday:  Mary Wollstonecraft was the first to articulate the rights of women. She was a foreign war correspondent, an active journalist, a political philosopher, and a novelist. She argued against the inherent injustice of  eighteenth century marriage laws: wives were not allowed to own their own property or initiate a divorce. Husbands were allowed to whip and rape their wives. Wollstonecraft had grown up watching her mother be abused by her alcoholic father; she rescued her younger sister from an unhappy marriage. As a result, she did not believe in marriage and had her first child out of wedlock. Ultimately, she would relent and marry Mary Shelley’s father, but she saw this as a compromise, a necessary evil in an imperfect world.

For me, Mary Wollstonecraft is an inspiration. When I am afraid to say something I think people may not like, I remember Wollstonecraft and how brave she was. She endured social exile and terrible cruelty for the sake of her ideas. If she could speak her mind, then I can speak my mind. If she could live up to her ideals, then I can live up to mine.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 28, 2015 5:46 am

    Fabulous! Plus…last night Elizabeth incorporated a quote from your book into her essay she is writing for Humanities.

    And hey. Let’s talk about May 8th. You available for a chat today Charlotte?

    …sent remotely from Jonathan…. –


  2. April 28, 2015 7:40 am

    I just read the chapter on Mary Wollstonecraft’s brutal early years; what a steely soul. Happy Birthday, Mary.

  3. Kathleen A Dahl permalink
    May 5, 2015 10:51 am

    Thank you for writing this marvelous book! I have hoped for years that someone would explore this fascinating subject and you have done a wonderful job.

  4. Marjorie Edwards permalink
    June 13, 2015 4:35 pm

    Marvelous bio. I left a comment under the wrong book. Thank you for Romantic Outlaws. About to begin Mistress Bradstreet. I’d give anything to take a course with you. Too old. Wrong geography!

  5. DeAnn Tilton permalink
    August 7, 2015 1:06 pm

    Thank you for writing this book. I heard your interview on our local NPR program, here in Utah, RadioWest. Wollstonecraft is also one of my inspirations, and now so are you!

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