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In recent years, Mary Wollstonecraft has almost become a mother figure to modern Feminism.

Her most famous piece, Vindication of the Rights of Women, has come to be considered the first Communist manifesto.1 It is, therefore, vital to investigate the historical context of the work, the theories it lays down and the effects it actually had on society. Wollstonecraft aims, through her rhetorical piece, to change the position of people like herself. Cora Kaplan explains how it was a heroic mission to rescue women from a fate worse than death, which was, as she saw it, the malicious and simultaneous inscription of their sexuality and inferiority as innate, natural difference.2 It is her attacks on this society that this essay is primarily concerned with, to consider the ways in which she attacks patriarchal society and to see how the work was received by the society it was levelled against. It should become clear that the work isnt actually a great strike on patriarchal oppression, but propagates a theoretical utopia where women are more educated. Most of the Rights of Women is expressing ways in which women could improve themselves and how society would benefit from this. During this essay, I will also explore how successful the piece was, based on the critics and the legacy left after Marys death, obviously, expressing how the life of Mary affected the impact on patriarchal oppression and the on feminism as a whole. Initially, however, it is vital to explore what exactly the state of women was at the time Rights of Women was published; to set the context of the piece and investigate patriarchal oppression in the late Eighteenth century. It is commonly believed that the social position of women was almost static through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This belief is easily toppled by the facts. Womens position in society had, since perhaps the creation itself, has been pretty dire and certainly inferior to men. In the period prior to the enlightenment women were legally and socially inferior. One example of this is in crime: a

man convicted of murdering his wife would be hanged, but a woman convicted of murdering her husband would, by law, be burned alive.3 They were also unequal in financial and property rights, leaving them, as John Stuart Mill could express as late as 1869 the legal position of most women[was] one of totally dependence on their husbands.4 This was, as I expressed before, starting to change during the enlightenment. Women were gaining more rights; property became protected by law and attitudes to punishments changed. Women were also, though dependent on husbands, becoming more equal in marriage and, as L Stone argues, becoming companions and friends of their husbands. This was especially prevalent in the professional bourgeoisie where modern families were basically being developed.5 Female education was also changing in this period, with more bourgeois women being educated. Although traditionally, as Wollstonecraft experiences, they are generally taught artistic ventures, there were some schools starting to teach philosophy, history and languages.6 However, Miller does argue that despite the periods widespread acceptance of the inedibility and desirability of change, it resolutely clung onto what was believed to be a providentially ordered society structure based upon rank and due subordination.7 Its quite clear that Wollstonecrafts world did have considerable oppression within it, even though there was some semblance of change. It was within this context that her attack on male dominance of society was based. Mary initiates her attack on patriarchal oppression in the first page of the introduction explaining how men have created books considering females rather as women than human creatures, have been more anxious to make them alluring mistresses than affectionate wives and rational mothers (Page 11).8 However, her approach to the attack on male dominance over women is quite unique. It is the tactics that she uses that I want to explain and show how effective they can be. She expresses how women are legally prostituted, attacking marriage and the

power men have through marriage (page 75). She attacks that women can only advance through marriage explaining how its the only security of public freedom and universal happiness (page 18). She also argues heavily against the socially constructed position of women, which has been forced upon them by men. This is possibly her strongest argument against male dominance which conforms to the ideas of what is natural and what has been created by man; similar to the ideas of Thomas Paine, Rousseau and ultimately Locke. The idea is that the subjugation of women is unnatural and obviously goes against rational, enlightened and more important moral society. Wollstonecraft also, in a slavery abolitionist fashion, compares the position of slaves to that of women. She expresses that woman 'has always been a slave or a despot and this is connected again connected to natural rights and the unnatural ranking of society. (Pages 175-185) There is also an argument for the subjugation of women due to the lustful desires of men and how for women to be free and become more rational, these desires must be controlled and contained. However, its important realise, as Barbara Taylor explains, the central preoccupation of the Vindication is not with the position of middle-class women as subordinate members of a newly ascendant class, nor even with the entire sexs lack of legal, political or economic rights.9 The certain theme is actually the way in which women place themselves in the situation and the effects of female education. The main premise of the book is an attack on the way in which women are within society. Wollstonecraft uses this method of rhetoric to probably convince men of how women could be and suggest to them how much of an improvement change would be. As Susan Ferguson argues her harsh words are not simply directed at women; they are meant more as a lever of social criticism and, in fact, indict a whole society.10 She explains that women are weak artificial beings, raised above the common wants of their race, in a premature unnatural

manner, undermine the very foundation of virtue, and spread corruption through the whole mass of society.(page 13). Wollstonecraft believes that female equality can be reached quite easily, through education. However, through a new type of education that forces them to become more reasoned and allowed to study forms of education that allow them to form rational judgements. This must be followed with the resignation of the arbitrary power of beauty (page 40) over men. To convince men of the importance of this she attacks ideas of chastity and the fears of adultery men have. The woman who has only been taught to please will soon find that her charms cannot have much effect on her husband. Will she then have sufficient native energy to look into herself for comfort, and activate her dormant faculties or is it more rational to expect that she will try to please other men? (page 195) Wollstonecraft believes that that if women are educated in enlightening activities that they will be able to use their free time in marriage to follow more virtuous activities like philosophy. Wollstonecraft makes many criticisms against the way women act in society, their use of beauty to court males and other general vanity. It is quite clear that these criticism, although they are levelled at women, are meant for men to read and see the advantages of creating an equal society. However, her idea is that by pursuing rational education that the concept of romantic love will also be destroyed and marriage will become based on friendship and respect, similar to the changes that were already occurring at the time. This is seen as a more rational state of being for human kind. It is clear however, that the criticism were meant to convince men to drop the major parts of patriarchal oppression by showing it to be detrimental to their own interests and the interests of society as a whole. Barbara Taylor also believes that it was impossible for women to speak as citizens without speaking against their womanhood.11 G Kelly agrees and believes that she was looking for a balance to make it no seem so masculine in nature so that men didnt

immediately discount the piece, he calls it an experiment in feminist writing and believes that in contemporary views it was somewhere between masculine and feminine.12 Considering that this book was levelled at male society I want now, to look at the reactions to the work amongst both men and women. How much effect did Wollstonecrafts work have on Patriarchal oppression in this period? I will then attempt to explain why there wasnt a tumultuous reaction and effective movement following the creation of Rights of Women. R.M Janes explains that the reviews of Wollstonecraft were split along party lines and that Periodicals sympathetic towards the rights of man and events in France approved the work.13 It is quite clear that amongst her liberal friends and friends of Joseph Johnson, her publisher, had quite reasonable opinions of the work. G Kelly explains that Liberal young men of the time were often more enthusiastic about the book then women readers14 He is quite right to say this, the female reaction was very mixed, many educated women simply ignored the work. One example, cited by Barbara Taylor, is that of Hannah Cowley who writes: will Miss Wolstonecraft [sic] forgive meif I say that politics is unfeminine? I never in my life could attend to their discussion.15 Yet, as we already established, this was a work directed primarily at men, however much it discusses women. One of the most insightful contemporary analyses of Rights of Women is within Critical Review. This argues against the piece on many levels, expressing that Miss Wollstonecraft falls into the error which we noticed in our review of her first pamphlet, viz. vague inconclusive reasoning from imperfect ideas and want of a well digested plan. It also fears the loss of 10000 useful domestic wives and the loss of interesting sensibilities of feminine women, through pursuit of purely rational ideals.16 However, the major reaction of this review was actually in agreement with Wollstonecrafts main argument; female education.

If a Young Woman be led to examine a subject coolly, to compare different arguments, to estimate the different degrees of evidence which each subject admits of and to trace with some attention the evolutions of the human mind: above all, it indulges the habit of reflection, and is neither afraid nor ashamed to look at her own errors, and investigate their source, she will be a more pleasing companion, a better wife and mother, a more useful member of society.17 Although on first inspection this is clearly supportive of the Wollstonecrafts work, its my opinion that this goes against the attack on phallocentric society because they want improvement in women for their own advantage, which perhaps defies the actual point the Wollstonecrafts work. There was a general consensus for the reform of womens education amongst the reviewers and thinkers of the time.18 It is quite obvious the work was well regarded after it was published; it was later translated into French and German. Barbara Taylor believes that Wollstonecraft died a celebrity, the best know female political writer of her day.19 It must also be said that the reason the reaction isnt one of shock or outrage is because Wollstonecraft has plenty of contemporaries; ranging from Platos republic, to the work of writers like Mary Astell.20 Astell argued, in 1700, that if all men are born freehow is it that all women are born slaves?21 So the work is not exceptionally revolutionary in what it says, its merely the first time that a piece of work has been put together with feminist ideas as the main premise of the writing. It wasnt until later that the more serious arguments against the work emerged, generally to do with later circumstances. Janes explains that Wollstonecrafts reputation collapsed as a consequence of two separate events: the course of the revolution in France and the consequent repudiation of the vocabulary of revolution in England; and Godwins publication of his Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Women22 On top of the collapse of her reputation, was the premise of the work.

It was mainly against writers who represent sexist prejudice in society. So it never aimed to strike Patriarchal society or to really attack the status quo. The only other realistic aim, for that period, is the improvement of education which was put off for nearly Eighty years. The reason it failed to move into a rational or liberal feminist movement was probably to do with her reputation. She had two illegitimate pregnancies, attempted to commit suicide twice (almost successfully) and generally failed to live up to her ideals. Within her letters to William Godwin for instance, we see a woman that shows vanity and passion, even though she argues that rationality would stop the passion for love. Is her love for Godwin based primarily on a platonic relationship? Then how did they manage to create a child out of marriage. One concerned writer expressed that her life is totally inconsistent with the nature of a rational being 23. Explaining how the way she lived her life basically went against the principles she, herself, had laid down for women. Taylor expresses that a fog of censure descended on her reputation that was not to disperse for almost a century24. It is quite clear that her reputation was seriously detrimental to the plight of women and patriarchal oppression. However, M Walters does believe that there was no possibility of a Womens movement in Wollstonecrafts time due to the women themselves.25 The Rights of Women was a vital piece of work for the Feminists, however it did not really provide a strike on phallocentric society until the immoral life of Wollstonecraft was ignored and the repression against revolutionary ideas had disappeared. It is quite clear that some of her ideas did have an effect on the society she lived in, but its unclear how much of an impact Godwins memoirs of her had on any progress she made. There is much more scope for study in this area, away from studying the biography of Wollstonecraft and her ideas, but looking more at the effect it had on individual readers at the time. The work itself was not created to strike Patriarchal oppression either; it was aimed at

expressing criticisms at the oppression, but was based mainly on the effect of improved female education and a revolution in the manners of women. The ideas themselves were just one step in the movement against male dominance over society and that step would only be completed once female society became educated. Its quite clear that her thoughts were revolutionary for her period and were more suited to the society of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth century, when Feminists would reintegrate Wollstonecrafts work into their armoury. Mary Wollstonecraft on education So why should Mary Wollstonecraft be of any great importance as an educational thinker? A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is more often than not regarded as a purely political treatise. However, like Platos Republic and Rousseaus Emile, it can be seen as both a political and an educational treatise. It is above all a celebration of the rationality of women. It constitutes an attack on the view of female education put forward by Rousseau and countless others who regarded women as weak and artificial and not capable of reasoning effectively. Mary Wollstonecraft rejected the education in dependency that Rousseau advocated for them in Emile. A woman must be intelligent in her own right, she argued. She cannot assume that her husband will be intelligent! Mary Wollstonecraft maintained that this did not contradict the role of the woman as a mother or a carer or of the role of the woman in the home. She maintained that meek wives are, in general, foolish mothers. Reason was her starting point. For Mary Wollstonecraft, rationality or reason formed the basis of our human rights as it was our ability to grasp truth and therefore acquire knowledge of right and wrong that separated us, as human

beings, from the animal world. Through the exercise of reason we became moral and political agents. This world-view was acknowledged by all progressive thinkers of the time. However, it was essentially a mans world and the work of Rousseau was typical of this. What Mary Wollstonecraft did was extend the basic ideas of Enlightenment philosophy to women and Rousseaus educational ideas of how to educate boys to girls. She set about arguing against the assumption that women were not rational creatures and were simply slaves to their passions. Mary Wollstonecraft argued that it was up to those who thought like this to prove it. She described the process by which parents brought their daughters up to be docile and domesticated. She maintained that if girls were encouraged from an early age to develop their minds, it would be seen that they were rational creatures and there was no reason whatsoever for them not to be given the same opportunities as boys with regard to education and training. Women could enter the professions and have careers just the same as men. In proposing the same type of education for girls as that proposed for boys, Mary Wollstonecraft also went a step further and proposed that they be educated together which was even more radical than anything proposed before. The idea of co-educational schooling was simply regarded as nonsense by many educational thinkers of the time. It was fashionable to contend that if women were educated and not docile creatures, they would lose any power they had over their husbands. Mary Wollstonecraft was furious about this and maintained that This is the very point I aim at. I do not wish them to have power over men but over themselves. The most perfect education, in my opinion, is such an exercise of the understanding as is best calculated to strengthen the body and form the heart. Or, in other words, to enable the individual to attain such habits of virtue as will

render it independent. In fact, it is a farce to call any being virtuous whose virtues do not result from the exercise of its own reason. This was Rousseaus opinion respecting men: I extend it to women. Mary Wollstonecraft A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Mary Wollstonecraft favoured co-educational day schools, lessons given by informal conversational methods, with lots of physical exercise both free and organised. She had a picture of an ideal family where the babies were nourished by an intelligent mother and not sent away to nurses and then to boarding school and fathers were friends to their children rather than tyrants. Essentially family members were all regarded as rational beings and children should be able to judge their parents like anyone else. Family relationships therefore became educational ones. Conclusion A Vindication of the Rights of Woman covered a wide range of topics relating to the condition of women. Not only did she argue for womens equality with men in education but she also called for their equality within the law as well as their right to parliamentary representation. As Jane Roland Martin has commented in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries reformers looked to coeducational schooling - and it became a 'fact of life' for many millions of people. The problem is that 'this great historical development turned out to be a carrier of old inequities and the creator of new problems for women' (2001: 71-2). Not only is it necessary to ensure that coeducation is 'girl and women friendly' it is also necessary to design education for both sexes that 'incorporates the virtues of rationality and self-governance that Rousseau attributed to men and also the virtue of patience and gentleness, zeal and affection, tenderness and care that he attributed to women' (op. cit.). Mary Wollstonecraft was a pioneer for women.

She led the way for feminists and her book is a classic that still inspires many today.

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Mary Wollstonecraft The following entry provides criticism of Wollstonecraft's political treatise A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). See also, Mary Wollstonecraft Criticism. INTRODUCTION Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) is a declaration of the rights of women to equality of education and to civil opportunities. The book-length essay, written in simple and direct language, was the first great feminist treatise. In it Wollstonecraft argues that true freedom necessitates equality of the sexes; claims that intellect, or reason, is superior to emotion, or passion; seeks to persuade women to acquire strength of mind and body; and aims to convince women that what had traditionally been regarded as soft, womanly virtues are synonymous with weakness. Wollstonecraft advocates education as the key for women to achieve a sense of self-respect and a new self-image that can enable them to live to their full capabilities. The work attacks Enlightenment thinkers such as Jean Jacques Rousseau who, even while espousing the revolutionary notion that men should not have power over each other, denied women the basic rights claimed for men. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman created an uproar upon its publication but was then largely

ignored until the latter part of the twentieth century. Today it is regarded as one of the foundational texts of liberal feminism. Biographical Information Wollstonecraft was born in London in 1759, the second of six children. Her father, Edward John Wollstonecraft, was a tyrannical man, and as she was growing up Wollstonecraft watched her mother bullied and mistreated by him. At the age of nineteen Wollstonecraft left home to make her own way in the world. In 1783 she aided her sister, Eliza, escape an abusive marriage by hiding her from her husband until a legal separation was arranged. Wollstonecraft and her sister later established a school at Newington Green before she moved to Ireland to work as a governess to the family of Lord Kingsborough. In 1787 she returned to London and embarked on a literary career. The following year Wollstonecraft was hired as translator and literary advisor to Joseph Johnson, a publisher of radical texts. She soon became acquainted with prominent intellectuals in radical political circles. When Johnson launched the Analytical Review, Wollstonecraft became a regular contributor of articles. In 1790, in response to Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, Wollstonecraft published A Vindication of the Rights of Men, in which she disputed Burke's conservative position and advocated for the rights of the poor and the oppressed. In 1791 two events took place that prompted Wollstonecraft to write her A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. The first was the writing of the new French Constitution, which excluded women from all areas of public life and granted citizenship rights only to men over the age of twenty-five. The second was the report on education given by Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Prigord to the French National Assembly recommending that girls' education should be directed to more subservient activities. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is dedicated to Talleyrand, and Wollstonecraft appeals

to him to rethink his views. While she was working on the treatise, Wollstonecraft fell in love with the married painter and philosopher Henry Fuseli. When she was rejected by him, and after her newly published treatise caused a stir in England, she moved to France. There she witnessed Robespierre's Reign of Terror; she would later criticize the violence of the French Revolution in her history, An Historical and Moral View of the Origins and Progress of the French Revolution, and the Effect It Has Produced in Europe (1794). In Paris Wollstonecraft met Captain Gilbert Imlay, an American timber merchant, with whom she later had a daughter, Fanny. When Imlay deserted her, Wollstonecraft attempted suicide. Soon after she lived with the philosopher William Godwin, whom she eventually married. In August 1797 she gave birth to their daughter, Mary (later Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein), and less than a month later she died. Plot and Major Characters A Vindication of the Rights of Woman begins with a dedication to TalleyrandPrigord, the Late Bishop of Autun, asking him to reconsider some of his ideas about the education of girls and women. In her dedication Wollstonecraft states that the main idea in her book is based on the simple principle that if woman is not prepared by education to become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of knowledge and virtue. Her argument in the thirteen chapters that follow is that rights are based on human reason and common human virtues, which are empowered by God. Because people have tended to use reason to justify injustice rather than promote equality, a vindication of the rights of women is needed. Her work begins with a discussion of sexual character, then offers observations on the state of degradation to which woman is reduced by various causes; presents critiques of writers who have rendered women objects of pity or contempt; shows the effect that an early association of ideas has upon the character; discusses the notion of modesty as it is applied to women; shows

how morality is undermined by sexual notions of the importance of a good reputation; outlines the pernicious effects that arise from the unnatural distinctions established in society; discusses parental affection and one's duty to parents; comments on national education; presents examples of the folly that the ignorance of women generates; and concludes with reflections on the moral improvement that a revolution in female manners would produce. In the course of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Wollstonecraft criticizes the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who, she judges, has an inadequate understanding of rights and is wrong when he claims that humans are essentially solitary. Indeed, one of the principal projects and strategies of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is to turn Rousseau's egalitarian principles against his negative characterization of women in Emile (1762). She challenges Burke also, who she views as having a mistaken conception of the nature of power. A great deal of her treatise attacks the educational restrictions and mistaken notions of female excellence that keep women in a state of ignorance and slavish dependence. She argues that girls are forced into passivity, vanity, and credulity by lack of physical and mental stimulus and by a constant insistence on the need to please, and ridicules notions about women as helpless, charming adornments in the household. She sees women as too often sentimental and foolish, gentle domestic brutes whose fondness for pleasure has been allowed to take the place of ambition. Wollstonecraft suggests that it is only by encouraging the moral development of every individual to success and independence that a true civilization will work. Major Themes A Vindication of the Rights of Woman argues for equality for women and girls not only in the political sphere but in the social realm as well. It asks readers to reconsider prevailing notions about women's abilities. Some of the main issues

that Wollstonecraft emphasizes are education, virtues, passion versus reason, and power. She argues that the current roles and education of women do women more harm than good and urges reform that would provide women with broader and deeper learning. She also discusses the virtues that will develop a true civilization. However, she rejects traditional notions of feminine virtue and sees virtues not as sexual traits but as human qualities. She also insists that intellect, or reason, and not emotion, or passion, be the guiding force in human conduct. Society's association of women with emotionality and thus vulnerability must to be countered, she argues, by the use of reason and engagement in strenuous mental activity. In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Wollstonecraft talks a great deal about powerin terms of the status quo, in regards to women's position in society, and so onbut ultimately what she urges is for women to have power not over men but over themselves. Critical Reception A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was much acclaimed in radical political circles when it was published, but it also attracted considerable hostility. The statesman Horace Walpole, for example, called Wollstonecraft a hyena in petticoats, and for most of the nineteenth century the book was ignored because of its scandalous reputation. Beginning in the late twentieth century, literary critics and philosophers began to take great interest in Wollstonecraft's treatise as one of the founding works of feminism. Some issues discussed by commentators of Wollstonecraft's treatise are the author's attitude toward sexuality, ideas about education, the role of reason versus passion, attitudes toward slavery, the relevance of the work to contemporary struggles for rights, the unflattering portrayal of women, and the status of the work as a foundational feminist text.

Mary Wollstonecraft has been called the "first feminist" or "mother of feminism." Her book-length essay on women's rights, and especially on women's education, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, is a classic of feminist thought, and a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the history of feminism. Mary Wollstonecraft's life and her work have been interpreted in widely different ways, depending on the attitude of the writer towards women's equality or depending on the thread of feminism with which a writer is associated. Mary Wollstonecraft is usually considered a liberal feminist because her approach is primarily concerned with the individual woman and about rights. She could be considered as a difference feminist in her honoring of women's natural talents and her insistence that women not be measured by men's standards. Her work has a few glimmers of some modern sexuality and gender analysis in her consideration of the role of sexual feelings in the relationships between men and women. Mary Wollstonecraft can be claimed with some legitimacy by communitarian feminists: their critique of a "rights" approach echoes in Wollstonecraft's emphasis on duty in the family and in civic relationships. And she can also be seen as a precursor of the political feminists: her Vindication and perhaps even more her Maria: The Wrongs of Woman link women's oppression to the need for men to change. Like several other women of the time (Judith Sargent Murray in America, Olympe de Gouges in France, for two examples), Mary Wollstonecraft was a participant in and observer of a remarkable series of social revolutions. One was Enlightenment thought in general: a skepticism about and revisioning of institutions, including the family, the state, educational theory, and religion. Wollstonecraft is especially associated with Enlightenment thought that put "reason" at the center of human identity and as the justification for rights.

But these ideas seemed in stark contrast to the continuing realities of women's lives. Mary Wollstonecraft could look to her own life history and to the lives of women in her family and see the contrast. Abuse of women was close to home. She saw little legal recourse for the victims of abuse. For women in the rising middle-class, those who did not have husbands -- or at least reliable husbands -had to find ways to earn their own living or a living for their families. The contrast of the heady talk of "rights of man" with the realities of the "life of woman" motivated Mary Wollstonecraft to write her 1792 book, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Tracts and ideological books had been exchanged in the war of ideas around rights and liberty and freedom and reason for several years. Writings on the "rights of man" including one by Wollstonecraft were part of the general intellectual discussion in England and France before, during, and after the French Revolution. Wollstonecraft moved in the same circles as Thomas Paine, Joseph Priestley, Samuel Coleridge, William Wordsworth, William Blake and William Godwin. It was in that atmosphere that Mary Wollstonecraft wrote her Vindication, taking chapters to the printer as she wrote them (she was still writing the end after the first chapters had been printed). Mary Wollstonecraft later (1796) published a travel book, writing about a trip to Sweden, in which her descriptions of another culture were full of feeling and emotion -- something which her more rational-oriented critics deplored. In that same year Mary Wollstonecraft renewed an old acquaintance with William Godwin. They became lovers a few months later, though they lived separately to focus on their separate writing careers. Both were philosophically opposed to the institution of marriage, and for good reason. The law gave rights to a husband and took them away from a wife, and both were opposed to such

laws. It was decades later that Henry Blackwell and Lucy Stone, in America, integrated into their wedding ceremony a disclaimer of such rights. But when Mary Wollstonecraft became pregnant, they decided to marry, though they continued their separate apartments. Tragically, Wollstonecraft died within two weeks of delivery of the baby, of "childbed fever" or septicemia. The daughter, raised by Godwin with Wollstonecraft's older daughter, later married the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in a shocking elopement -- and is known to history as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of Frankenstein. Shortly after Mary Wollstonecraft's death, Godwin published his "Memoirs" of Wollstonecraft as well as her unpublished and unfinished novel, Maria: or the Wrongs of Woman. As some have argued, his honesty in his memoirs of her troubled love relationships, her suicide attempts, her financial difficulties, all helped conservative critics to find a target to denigrate all women's rights. The most vivid example of that is Richard Polwhele's "The Unsex'd Females" which viciously criticized Wollstonecraft and other female writers. The result? Many readers steered away from Mary Wollstonecraft. Few writers quoted her or used her work in their own, at least they did not do so publicly. Godwin's work of honesty and love, ironically, nearly caused the intellectual loss of Mary Wollstonecraft's ideas. In her 1791-92 A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, now considered a classic of feminist history, Mary Wollstonecraft argued primarily for the rights of woman to be educated. Through education would come emancipation. In defending this right, Mary Wollstonecraft accepts the definition of her time that women's sphere is the home, but she does not isolate the home from public life as many others did and as many still do. For Mary Wollstonecraft, the public life and domestic life are not separate, but connected. The home is important to

Wollstonecraft because it forms a foundation for the social life, the public life. The state, the public life, enhances and serves both individuals and the family. Men have duties in the family, too, and women have duties to the state. Mary Wollstonecraft also argues for the right of woman to be educated, because she is primarily responsible for the education of the young. Before 1789 and her Vindication of the Rights of Man, she was known primarily as a writer about education of children, and she still accepts this role as a primary role for woman as distinct from man. Mary Wollstonecraft goes on to argue that educating women will strengthen the marriage relationship. Her concept of marriage underlies this argument. A stable marriage, she believes, is a partnership between a husband and a wife -- a marriage is a social contract between two individuals. A woman thus needs to have equal knowledge and sense, to maintain the partnership. A stable marriage also provides for the proper education of children. Mary Wollstonecraft also acknowledges that women are sexual beings -- but so are men. Thus female chastity and fidelity, necessary for a stable marriage, require male chastity and fidelity too. Men are required, as much as women, to put duty over sexual pleasure. (Perhaps her experience with Gilbert Imlay, father of her elder daughter, made this point more clear to her, as he was not able to live up to this standard.) Control over family size, for instance, serves the individuals in the family, strengthens the family, and thus serves the public interest through raising better citizens. But putting duty above pleasure did not mean that feelings are not important. The goal, for Wollstonecraft's ethics, is to bring feeling and thought into harmony. The harmony of feeling and thought she calls reason. Reason was of primary importance to the Enlightenment philosophers, a company to which Mary Wollstonecraft belongs. But her celebration of nature, of feelings, of

"sympathy," also make her a bridge to the Romantic philosophy and literary movements which follow. (Her younger daughter much later married one of the best-known Romantic poets, Percy Shelley.) Mary Wollstonecraft sees women's absorption in such purely sensing and feeling activities as fashion and beauty denigrates their reason, makes them less able to maintain their part in the marriage partnership and reduces their effectiveness as educators of children -- and thus makes them less dutiful as citizens. In bringing together feeling and thought, rather than separating them and dividing one for woman and one for man, Mary Wollstonecraft was also providing a critique of Rousseau, another defender of personal rights but one who did not believe that such individual liberty was for women. Woman, for Rousseau, was incapable of reason, and only man could be trusted to exercise thought and reason. Thus, for Rousseau, women could not be citizens, only men could. But Mary Wollstonecraft, in her Vindication, makes clear her position: only when woman and man are equally free, and woman and man are equally dutiful in exercise of their responsibilities to family and state, can there be true freedom. The essential reform necessary for such equality, Mary Wollstonecraft is convinced, is equal and quality education for woman -- an education which recognizes her duty to educate her own children, to be an equal partner with her husband in the family, and which recognizes that woman, like man, is a creature of both thought and feeling: a creature of reason. Today, it may be nave to imagine that simply equalizing educational opportunity will ensure true equality for women. But the century after Wollstonecraft was a progression of newly opened doors for women's education, and that education significantly changed the lives and opportunities for women in all aspects of their lives. Without equal and quality education for women,

women would be doomed to Rousseau's vision of a separate and always inferior sphere. Reading A Vindication of the Rights of Woman today, most readers are struck with how relevant some parts are, yet how archaic are others. This reflects the enormous changes in the value society places on women's reason today, as contrasted to the late 18th century; but it also reflects the many ways in which issues of equality of rights and duties are still with us today.

Introduction A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects (1792), written by the 18th-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. In it, Wollstonecraft responds to those educational and political theorists of the 18th century who did not believe women should have an education. She argues that women ought to have an education commensurate with their position in society, claiming that women are essential to the nation because they educate its children and because they could be "companions" to their husbands, rather than mere wives. Instead of viewing women as ornaments to society or property to be traded in marriage, Wollstonecraft maintains that they are human beings deserving of the same fundamental rights as men. Wollstonecraft was prompted to write the Rights of Woman after reading Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Prigord's 1791 report to the French National Assembly, which stated that women should only receive a domestic education; she used her commentary on this specific event to launch a broad attack against sexual double standards and to indict men for encouraging women to indulge in excessive emotion. Wollstonecraft wrote the Rights of Woman hurriedly in order

to respond directly to ongoing events; she intended to write a more thoughtful second volume but died before completing it. While Wollstonecraft does call for equality between the sexes in particular areas of life, such as morality, she does not explicitly state that men and women are equal. Her ambiguous statements regarding the equality of the sexes have since made it difficult to classify Wollstonecraft as a modern feminist, particularly since the word and the concept were unavailable to her. Although it is commonly assumed now that the Rights of Woman was unfavourably received, this is a modern misconception based on the belief that Wollstonecraft was as reviled during her lifetime as she became after the publication of William Godwin's Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1798). The Rights of Woman was actually well-received when it was first published in 1792. One biographer has called it "perhaps the most original book of [Wollstonecraft's] century".[1] Historical context A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was written against the tumultuous background of the French Revolution and the debates that it spawned in Britain. In a lively and sometimes vicious pamphlet war, now referred to as the Revolution Controversy, British political commentators addressed topics ranging from representative government to human rights to the separation of church and state, many of these issues having been raised in France first. Wollstonecraft first entered this fray in 1790 with A Vindication of the Rights of Men, a response to Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790).[2] In his Reflections, Burke criticized the view of many British thinkers and writers who had welcomed the early stages of the French revolution. While they saw the revolution as analogous to Britain's own Glorious Revolution in 1688, which had restricted the powers of the monarchy, Burke argued that the appropriate

historical analogy was the English Civil War (16421651) in which Charles I had been executed in 1649. He viewed the French revolution as the violent overthrow of a legitimate government. In Reflections he argues that citizens do not have the right to revolt against their government because civilization is the result of social and political consensus; its traditions cannot be continually challengedthe result would be anarchy. One of the key arguments of Wollstonecraft's Rights of Men, published just six weeks after Burke's Reflections, is that rights cannot be based on tradition; rights, she argues, should be conferred because they are reasonable and just, regardless of their basis in tradition.[3] When Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Prigord presented his Rapport sur l'instruction publique (1791) to the National Assembly in France, Wollstonecraft was galvanized to respond.[4] In his recommendations for a national system of education, Talleyrand had written: Let us bring up women, not to aspire to advantages which the Constitution denies them, but to know and appreciate those which it guarantees them . . . Men are destined to live on the stage of the world. A public education suits them: it early places before their eyes all the scenes of life: only the proportions are different. The paternal home is better for the education of women; they have less need to learn to deal with the interests of others, than to accustom themselves to a calm and secluded life.[5] Wollstonecraft dedicated the Rights of Woman to Talleyrand: "Having read with great pleasure a pamphlet which you have lately published, I dedicate this volume to you; to induce you to reconsider the subject, and maturely weigh what I have advanced respecting the rights of woman and national education."[6] At the end of 1791, French feminist Olympe de Gouges had published her

Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen, and the question of women's rights became central to political debates in both France and Britain.[2] The Rights of Woman is an extension of Wollstonecraft's arguments in the Rights of Men. In the Rights of Men, as the title suggests, she is concerned with the rights of particular men (18th-century British men) while in the Rights of Woman, she is concerned with the rights afforded to "woman", an abstract category. She does not isolate her argument to 18th-century women or British women. The first chapter of the Rights of Woman addresses the issue of natural rights and asks who has those inalienable rights and on what grounds. She answers that since natural rights are given by God, for one segment of society to deny them to another segment is a sin.[7] The Rights of Woman thus engages not only specific events in France and in Britain but also larger questions being raised by contemporary political philosophers such as John Locke and JeanJacques Rousseau.[8] Themes Wollstonecraft did not employ the formal argumentation or logical prose style common to 18th-century philosophical writing when composing her own works. The Rights of Woman is a long essay that introduces all of its major topics in the opening chapters and then repeatedly returns to them, each time from a different point of view. It also adopts a hybrid tone that combines rational argument with the fervent rhetoric of sensibility.[9] In the 18th century, sensibility was a physical phenomenon that came to be attached to a specific set of moral beliefs. Physicians and anatomists believed that the more sensitive people's nerves, the more emotionally affected they would be by their surroundings. Since women were thought to have keener nerves than men, it was also believed that women were more emotional than men.[10] The emotional excess associated with sensibility also theoretically

produced an ethic of compassion: those with sensibility could easily sympathize with people in pain. Thus historians have credited the discourse of sensibility and those who promoted it with the increased humanitarian efforts, such as the movement to abolish the slave trade.[11] But sensibility also paralyzed those who had too much of it; as scholar G. J. Barker-Benfield explains, "an innate refinement of nerves was also identifiable with greater suffering, with weakness, and a susceptibility to disorder".[10] By the time Wollstonecraft was writing the Rights of Woman, sensibility had already been under sustained attack for a number of years.[12] Sensibility, which had initially promised to draw individuals together through sympathy, was now viewed as "profoundly separatist"; novels, plays, and poems that employed the language of sensibility asserted individual rights, sexual freedom, and unconventional familial relationships based only upon feeling.[13] Furthermore, as Janet Todd, another scholar of sensibility, argues, to many in Britain the cult of sensibility seemed to have feminized the nation, given women undue prominence, and emasculated men.[14] Rational education One of Wollstonecraft's central arguments in the Rights of Woman is that women should be educated rationally in order to give them the opportunity to contribute to society. In the 18th century, it was often assumed by both educational philosophers and conduct book writers, who wrote what one might think of as early self-help books,[15] that women were incapable of rational or abstract thought. Women, it was believed, were too susceptible to sensibility and too fragile to be able to think clearly. Wollstonecraft, along with other female reformers such as Catharine Macaulay and Hester Chapone, maintained that women were indeed capable of rational thought and deserved to be educated. She argued this point in her own conduct book, Thoughts on the Education of

Daughters (1787), in her children's book, Original Stories from Real Life (1788), as well as in the Rights of Woman.[16] Stating in her preface that my main argument is built on this simple principle, that if [woman] be not prepared by education to become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of knowledge and virtue; for truth must be common to all", Wollstonecraft contends that society will degenerate without educated women, particularly because mothers are the primary educators of young children.[17] She attributes the problem of uneducated women to men and a false system of education, gathered from the books written on this subject by men who [consider] females rather as women than human creatures".[18] Women are capable of rationality; it only appears that they are not, because men have refused to educate them and encouraged them to be frivolous (Wollstonecraft describes silly women as "spaniels" and "toys"[19]).[20] While stressing it is of the same kind, she entertains the notion that women might not be able to attain the same degree of knowledge that men do.[21] Wollstonecraft attacks conduct book writers such as James Fordyce and John Gregory as well as educational philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau who argue that a woman does not need a rational education. (Rousseau famously argues in Emile (1762) that women should be educated for the pleasure of men; Wollstonecraft, infuriated by this argument, attacks not only it but also Rousseau himself.[22]) Intent on illustrating the limitations that contemporary educational theory placed upon women, Wollstonecraft writes, "taught from their infancy that beauty is womans sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and, roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison",[23] implying that without this damaging ideology, which encourages young women to focus their attention on beauty and outward accomplishments, they could achieve much more. Wives could be the rational "companions" of their husbands and even pursue careers should they so choose: "women might certainly study the art of

healing, and be physicians as well as nurses. And midwifery, decency seems to allot to them . . . they might, also, study politics . . . Business of various kinds, they might likewise pursue."[24] For Wollstonecraft, "the most perfect education" is "an exercise of the understanding as is best calculated to strengthen the body and form the heart. Or, in other words, to enable the individual to attach such habits of virtue as will render it independent.[25] In addition to her broad philosophical arguments, Wollstonecraft lays out a specific plan for national education to counter Talleyrand's. In Chapter 12, "On National Education", she proposes that all children be sent to a "country day school" as well as given some education at home "to inspire a love of home and domestic pleasures". She also maintains that schooling should be co-educational, contending that men and women, whose marriages are "the cement of society", should be "educated after the same model".[26] Feminism It is debatable to what extent the Rights of Woman is a feminist text; because the definitions of feminist vary, different scholars have come to different conclusions. Wollstonecraft would never have referred to her text as feminist because the words feminist and feminism were not coined until the 1890s.[28] Moreover, there was no feminist movement to speak of during Wollstonecraft's lifetime. In the introduction to her seminal work on Wollstonecraft's thought, Barbara Taylor writes: Describing [Wollstonecraft's philosophy] as feminist is problematic, and I do it only after much consideration. The label is of course anachronistic . . . Treating Wollstonecrafts thought as an anticipation of nineteenth and twentieth-century feminist argument has meant sacrificing or distorting some of its key elements. Leading examples of this . . . have been the widespread neglect of her religious

beliefs, and the misrepresentation of her as a bourgeois liberal, which together have resulted in the displacement of a religiously inspired utopian radicalism by a secular, class-partisan reformism as alien to Wollstonecrafts political project as her dream of a divinely promised age of universal happiness is to our own. Even more important however has been the imposition on Wollstonecraft of a heroic-individualist brand of politics utterly at odds with her own ethically driven case for womens emancipation. Wollstonecrafts leading ambition for women was that they should attain virtue, and it was to this end that she sought their liberation.[29] In the Rights of Woman, Wollstonecraft does not make the claim for gender equality using the same arguments or the same language that late 19th- and 20th century feminists later would. For instance, rather than unequivocally stating that men and women are equal, Wollstonecraft contends that men and women are equal in the eyes of God, which means that they are both subject to the same moral law.[30] For Wollstonecraft, men and women are equal in the most important areas of life. While such an idea may not seem revolutionary to 21stcentury readers, its implications were revolutionary during the 18th century. For example, it implied that both men and womennot just womenshould be modest[31] and respect the sanctity of marriage.[32] Wollstonecraft's argument exposed the sexual double standard of the late 18th century and demanded that men adhere to the same virtues demanded of women. However, Wollstonecraft's arguments for equality stand in contrast to her statements respecting the superiority of masculine strength and valour.[33] Wollstonecraft famously and ambiguously states: Let it not be concluded, that I wish to invert the order of things; I have already granted, that, from the constitution of their bodies, men seem to be designed by Providence to attain a greater degree of virtue. I speak collectively of the whole

sex; but I see not the shadow of a reason to conclude that their virtues should differ in respect to their nature. In fact, how can they, if virtue has only one eternal standard? I must therefore, if I reason consequentially, as strenuously maintain that they have the same simple direction, as that there is a God.[34] Moreover, Wollstonecraft calls on men, rather than women, to initiate the social and political changes she outlines in the Rights of Woman. Because women are uneducated, they cannot alter their own situationmen must come to their aid.[35] Wollstonecraft writes at the end of her chapter "Of the Pernicious Effects Which Arise from the Unnatural Distinctions Established in Society": I then would fain convince reasonable men of the importance of some of my remarks; and prevail on them to weigh dispassionately the whole tenor of my observations. I appeal to their understandings; and, as a fellow-creature, claim, in the name of my sex, some interest in their hearts. I entreat them to assist to emancipate their companion, to make her a help meet for them! Would men but generously snap our chains, and be content with rational fellowship instead of slavish obedience, they would find us more observant daughters, more affectionate sisters, more faithful wives, more reasonable mothers in a word, better citizens.[36] It is Wollstonecraft's last novel, Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman (1798), the fictionalized sequel to the Rights of Woman, that is usually considered her most radical feminist work.[37] Sensibility One of Wollstonecraft's most scathing criticisms in the Rights of Woman is against false and excessive sensibility, particularly in women. She argues that women who succumb to sensibility are "blown about by every momentary gust of feeling"; because these women are "the prey of their senses", they cannot

think rationally.[38] In fact, not only do they do harm to themselves but they also do harm to all of civilization: these are not women who can refine civilization these are women who will destroy it. But reason and feeling are not independent for Wollstonecraft; rather, she believes that they should inform each other. For Wollstonecraft, as for the important 18th-century philosopher David Hume, the passions underpin all reason.[39] This was a theme that she would return to throughout her career, but particularly in her novels Mary: A Fiction (1788) and Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman. As part of her argument that women should not be overly influenced by their feelings, Wollstonecraft emphasizes that they should not be constrained by or made slaves to their bodies or their sexual feelings.[40] This particular argument has led many modern feminists to suggest that Wollstonecraft intentionally avoids granting women any sexual desire. Cora Kaplan argues that the "negative and prescriptive assault on female sexuality" is a "leitmotif" of the Rights of Woman.[41] For example, Wollstonecraft advises her readers to "calmly let passion subside into friendship" in the ideal companionate marriage (that is, in the ideal of a love-based marriage that was developing at the time).[42] It would be better, she writes, when two virtuous young people marry . . . if some circumstances checked their passion.[43] According to Wollstonecraft, love and friendship cannot subsist in the same bosom".[43] As Mary Poovey explains, Wollstonecraft betrays her fear that female desire might in fact court mans lascivious and degrading attentions, that the subordinate position women have been given might even be deserved. Until women can transcend their fleshly desires and fleshly forms, they will be hostage to the body.[44] If women are not interested in sexuality, they cannot be dominated by men. Wollstonecraft worries that women are consumed with "romantic wavering", that is, they are interested only in satisfying their lusts.[45] Because the Rights of Woman eliminates sexuality from a woman's life, Kaplan contends, it expresses a

violent antagonism to the sexual" while at the same time "exaggerat[ing] the importance of the sensual in the everyday life of women". Wollstonecraft was so determined to wipe sexuality from her picture of the ideal woman that she ended up foregrounding it by insisting upon its absence.[46] But as Kaplan and others have remarked, Wollstonecraft may have been forced to make this sacrifice: "it is important to remember that the notion of woman as politically enabled and independent [was] fatally linked [during the eighteenth century] to the unrestrained and vicious exercise of her sexuality."[47] Republicanism Claudia Johnson, a prominent Wollstonecraft scholar, has called the Rights of Woman "a republican manifesto".[48] Johnson contends that Wollstonecraft is hearkening back to the Commonwealth tradition of the 17th century and attempting to reestablish a republican ethos. In Wollstonecraft's version, there would be strong, but separate, masculine and feminine roles for citizens.[49] According to Johnson, Wollstonecraft "denounces the collapse of proper sexual distinction as the leading feature of her age, and as the grievous consequence of sentimentality itself. The problem undermining society in her view is feminized men".[50] If men feel free to adopt both the masculine position and the sentimental feminine position, she argues, women have no position open to them in society.[51] Johnson therefore sees Wollstonecraft as a critic, in both the Rights of Men and the Rights of Woman, of the "masculinization of sensitivity" in such works as Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France.[52] In the Rights of Woman Wollstonecraft adheres to a version of republicanism that includes a belief in the eventual overthrow of all titles, including the monarchy. She also briefly suggests that all men and women should be represented in government. But the bulk of her political criticism, as Chris Jones, a Wollstonecraft scholar, explains, is couched predominantly in terms of

morality".[53] Her definition of virtue focuses on the individuals happiness rather than, for example, the good of the entire society.[53] This is reflected in her explanation of natural rights. Because rights ultimately proceed from God, Wollstonecraft maintains that there are duties, tied to those rights, incumbent upon each and every person. For Wollstonecraft, the individual is taught republicanism and benevolence within the family; domestic relations and familial ties are crucial to her understanding of social cohesion and patriotism.[54] Class In many ways the Rights of Woman is inflected by a bourgeois view of the world, as is its direct predecessor the Rights of Men. Wollstonecraft addresses her text to the middle class, which she calls the "most natural state". She also frequently praises modesty and industry, virtues which, at the time, were associated with the middle class.[55] From her position as a middle-class writer arguing for a middle-class ethos, Wollstonecraft also attacks the wealthy, criticizing them using the same arguments she employs against women. She points out the "false-refinement, immorality, and vanity" of the rich, calling them "weak, artificial beings, raised above the common wants and affections of their race, in a premature unnatural manner [who] undermine the very foundation of virtue, and spread corruption through the whole mass of society".[56] But Wollstonecraft's criticisms of the wealthy do not necessarily reflect a concomitant sympathy for the poor. For her, the poor are fortunate because they will never be trapped by the snares of wealth: Happy is it when people have the cares of life to struggle with; for these struggles prevent their becoming a prey to enervating vices, merely from idleness![57] Moreover, she contends that charity has only negative consequences because, as Jones puts it, she sees it as

sustaining an unequal society while giving the appearance of virtue to the rich".[58] In her national plan for education, she retains class distinctions (with an exception for the intelligent), suggesting that: "After the age of nine, girls and boys, intended for domestic employments, or mechanical trades, ought to be removed to other schools, and receive instruction, in some measure appropriated to the destination of each individual . . . The young people of superior abilities, or fortune, might now be taught, in another school, the dead and living languages, the elements of science, and continue the study of history and politics, on a more extensive scale, which would not exclude polite literature."[59] Rhetoric and style In attempting to navigate the cultural expectations of female writers and the generic conventions of political and philosophical discourse, Wollstonecraft, as she does throughout her oeuvre, constructs a unique blend of masculine and feminine styles in the Rights of Woman.[60] She utilizes the language of philosophy, referring to her work as a "treatise" with "arguments" and "principles".[60] However, Wollstonecraft also uses a personal tone, employing "I" and "you", dashes and exclamation marks, and autobiographical references to create a distinctly feminine voice in the text.[9] The Rights of Woman further hybridizes its genre by weaving together elements of the conduct book, the short essay, and the novel, genres often associated with women, while at the same time claiming that these genres could be used to discuss philosophical topics such as rights.[61] Although Wollstonecraft argues against excessive sensibility, the rhetoric of the Rights of Woman is at times heated and attempts to provoke the reader. Many of the most emotional comments in the book are directed at Rousseau. For

example, after excerpting a long passage from Emile (1762), Wollstonecraft pithily states, "I shall make no other comments on this ingenious passage, than just to observe, that it is the philosophy of lasciviousness."[62] A mere page later, after indicting Rousseau's plan for female education, she writes "I must relieve myself by drawing another picture."[63] These terse exclamations are meant to draw the reader to her side of the argument (it is assumed that the reader will agree with them). While she claims to write in a plain style so that her ideas will reach the broadest possible audience,[64] she actually combines the plain, rational language of the political treatise with the poetic, passionate language of sensibility in order to demonstrate that one can combine rationality and sensibility in the same self.[65] Wollstonecraft defends her positions not only with reasoned argument but also with ardent rhetoric. In her efforts to vividly describe the condition of women within society, Wollstonecraft employs several different analogies.[66] She often compares women to slaves, arguing that their ignorance and powerlessness places them in that position. But at the same time, she also compares them to "capricious tyrants" who use cunning and deceit to manipulate the men around them. At one point, she reasons that a woman can become either a slave or tyrant, which she describes as two sides of the same coin.[67] Wollstonecraft also compares women to soldiers; like military men, they are valued only for their appearance. And like the rich, women's "softness" has "debased mankind".[68] Revision Wollstonecraft was forced to write the Rights of Woman hurriedly in order to respond to Talleyrand and ongoing events. Upon completing the work, she wrote to her friend William Roscoe: "I am dissatisfied with myself for not having done justice to the subject. Do not suspect me of false modesty I mean to say that had I allowed myself more time I could have written a better

book, in every sense of the word . . . I intend to finish the next volume before I begin to print, for it is not pleasant to have the Devil coming for the conclusion of a sheet fore it is written."[69] When Wollstonecraft revised the Rights of Woman for the second edition, she took the opportunity not only to fix small spelling and grammar mistakes but also to bolster the feminist claims of her argument.[70] She changed some of her statements regarding female and male difference to reflect a greater equality between the sexes.[71] Wollstonecraft never wrote the second part to the Rights of Woman, although William Godwin published her "Hints", which were "chiefly designed to have been incorporated in the second part of the Vindication of the Rights of Woman", in the posthumous collection of her works.[72] However, she did begin writing the novel Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman, which most scholars consider a fictionalized sequel to the Rights of Woman. It was unfinished at her death and also included in the Posthumous Works published by Godwin.[73] Reception and legacy When it was first published in 1792, the Rights of Woman was reviewed favourably by the Analytical Review, the General Magazine, the Literary Magazine, New York Magazine, and the Monthly Review, although the assumption persists even today that Rights of Woman received hostile reviews.[74] It was almost immediately released in a second edition in 1792, several American editions appeared, and it was translated into French. Taylor writes that "it was an immediate success".[75] Moreover, other writers such as Mary Hays and Mary Robinson specifically alluded to Wollstonecraft's text in their own works. Hays cited the Rights of Woman in her novel Memoirs of Emma Courtney (1796) and modelled her female characters after Wollstonecraft's ideal woman.[76] Although female conservatives such as Hannah More excoriated Wollstonecraft personally, they actually shared many

of the same values. As the scholar Anne Mellor has shown, both More and Wollstonecraft wanted a society founded on Christian virtues of rational benevolence, honesty, personal virtue, the fulfillment of social duty, thrift, sobriety, and hard work".[77] During the early 1790s, many writers within British society were engaged in an intense debate regarding the position of women in society. For example, the respected poet and essayist Anna Laetitia Barbauld and Wollstonecraft sparred back and forth; Barbauld published several poems responding to Wollstonecrafts work and Wollstonecraft commented on them in footnotes to the Rights of Woman.[78] The work also provoked outright hostility. The bluestocking Elizabeth Carter was unimpressed with the work.[79] Thomas Taylor, the Neoplatonist translator who had been a landlord to the Wollstonecraft family in the late 1770s, swiftly wrote a satire called A Vindication of the Rights of Brutes: if women have rights, why not animals too?[79] After Wollstonecraft died in 1797, her husband William Godwin published his Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1798). He revealed much about her private life that had previously not been known to the public: her illegitimate child, her love affairs, and her attempts at suicide. While Godwin believed he was portraying his wife with love, sincerity, and compassion, contemporary readers were shocked by Wollstonecraft's

unorthodox lifestyle and she became a reviled figure. Richard Polwhele targeted her in particular in his anonymous long poem The Unsex'd Females (1798), a defensive reaction to women's literary self-assertion: Hannah More is Christ to Wollstonecraft's Satan. His poem was "well known" among the responses A Vindication.[80] One reviewer comments this "ingenious poem" with its "playful sallies of sarcastic wit" against "our modern ladies,"[81] though others found it "a tedious, lifeless piece of writing."[82] Critical responses largely fell along clearcut political lines.

Wollstonecrafts ideas became associated with her life story and women writers felt that it was dangerous to mention her in their texts. Hays, who had previously been a close friend[83] and an outspoken advocate for Wollstonecraft and her Rights of Woman, for example, did not include her in the collection of Illustrious and Celebrated Women she published in 1803.[84] Maria Edgeworth specifically distances herself from Wollstonecraft in her novel Belinda (1802); she caricatures Wollstonecraft as a radical feminist in the character of Harriet Freke.[85] But, like Jane Austen, she does not reject Wollstonecrafts ideas. Both Edgeworth and Austen argue that women are crucial to the development of the nation; moreover, they portray women as rational beings who should choose companionate marriage.[86] The negative views towards Wollstonecraft persisted for over a century. The Rights of Woman was not reprinted until the middle of the 19th century and it still retained an aura of ill-repute. George Eliot wrote "there is in some quarters a vague prejudice against the Rights of Woman as in some way or other a reprehensible book, but readers who go to it with this impression will be surprised to find it eminently serious, severely moral, and withal rather heavy".[87] The suffragist (i.e. moderate reformer, as opposed to suffragette) Millicent Garrett Fawcett wrote the introduction to the centenary edition of the Rights of Woman, cleansing the memory of Wollstonecraft and claiming her as the foremother of the struggle for the vote.[88] While the Rights of Woman may have paved the way for feminist arguments, 20th century feminists have tended to use Wollstonecraft's life story, rather than her texts, for inspiration;[89] her unorthodox lifestyle convinced them to try new "experiments in living", as Virginia Woolf termed it in her famous essay on Wollstonecraft.[90] However, there is some evidence that the Rights of Woman may be influencing current feminists. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a feminist who is critical of Islam's dictates regarding women, cites the Rights of Woman in her autobiography Infidel,

writing that she was "inspired by Mary Wollstonecraft, the pioneering feminist thinker who told women they had the same ability to reason as men did and deserved the same rights".[91]

Analysis of Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women By Jamie Sue Austin Mary Wollstonecraft's "A Vindication of the Rights of Women" is an early feminist work that evaluates the role of women in society during the 18 th century, provides guidelines for how women might improve upon themselves, and petitions men to help women become viable and productive members of society. There have been many changes in the social roles of women since Mary Wollstonecraft wrote "A Vindication of the Rights of Women", most of which have had a largely positive effect on the lives of women. Women have gained property and voting rights, freedom to enter the work place, and access to equal education. Women are now encouraged to develop interests outside of cultivating their fashion and style. To explore these changes a comparison will be made between the women described by Wollstonecraft and modern day women of accomplishment. Since women who adhered strictly to their societal roles in the 18th century did not, individually, make a notable recorded impact on history, there are no historical figures from which to draw from. That is not to say that there were no influential women during the 18th century, but that those women who were noted by history as influential did not strictly adhere to societal norms either by being outspoken, adventurous, opinionated, educated, or otherwise unique. To aid in the comparison the character of Dora Spenlow from the Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield will be used as a representation of the women described in Wollstonecraft's work. By comparing Dora Spenlow, who demonstrates the most desirable of characteristics women

were encouraged to have in the 18th century, to modern women, a picture of progress can be made in which the fruition of Wollstonecraft's ideas can be seen. One of the first areas of progress can be seen in the overall temperament of women. Women of the 18th century were encouraged to display sensibility, a characteristic which was defined as the ability to be responsive to external stimuli, be it physical or emotional. A woman having a great degree of sensibility would easily feel compassion or empathy. She would just as easily feel anxious or nervous. Sensibility was a virtuous characteristic because it was believed that a person who was sensible was more in tune to the beauties of the natural world and had a finer moral compass. Refined sensibility was also a requirement of the wealthy, which were expected to have the ability to appreciate the nuanced difference in the quality of wines, art, and music. Just as now, people of the 18th century modeled their behavior against the elite of their society, with sensibility being an easy characteristic to emulate. The sensible women of Wollstonecraft's era were so overcome by their emotional responses to everyday stimuli that they were rendered nearly useless (1479). In contrast, modern women operate under an entirely different definition of sensibility. A sensible woman by today's standards is one that can make prudent decisions taking into account all available information while retaining compassion and empathy, without being overwhelmed by her emotions. A sensible woman attempts to be practical in her dealings with situations and people by trying to arrange reasonable compromise when possible. The modern sensible woman is not in singular pursuit of refining her tastes or appearance, but is more apt to be interested in expanding her knowledge and abilities to create a sustainable future for herself. If we compare the sensible nature of Dora Spenlow to a modern sensible woman we can see how different women of the 18th century were from their modern counterparts. In this instance the comparison will be made to Michelle Obama because she is a well recognized

wife and mother from a middle class upbringing. Dora Spenlow is a genuinely likeable character. She is sweet, kind, and compassionate. She has a love of animals and is devoted to her husband. Dora is also intensely nervous and easily overwhelmed by life's daily workings. When David attempts to discuss with her their future finances should they marry she falls to pieces. Dickens describes her piteously shaking and crying because the discussion is unbearably "dreadful" and difficult for her (539-541). Dora breaks into tears repeatedly throughout the novel, crying over cooking and accounting, and crying any time there is the slightest of hurt feelings. Her extreme sensibility prevents her from making progress in the housekeeping and makes David guard his conversation carefully to prevent upsetting her. Dora is the furthest example of Wollstonecraft's women. Of sensible women Wollstonecraft says: In short, women, in general, as well as the rich of both sexes, have acquired all the follies and vices of civilization and have missed the useful fruit...Their sense are inflamed, and their understanding neglected, consequently they become the prey of gust of feeling. Civilized women are, therefore, so weakened by false refinement, that, respecting morals, their condition is much below what it would be were they left in a state nearer to nature. Ever restless and anxious, their over exercised sensibility not only renders them uncomfortable themselves, but troublesome, to use a soft phrase, to others. (Wollstonecraft 1478) Wollstonecraft, in saying that they are less than what they would be if left in a state nearer to nature, compares overly sensible women to animals or primitives. Dickens' Dora Spenlow is repeatedly referred to as a "frightened little bird." Both authors illustrate women overwrought by sensibility as weak, restless, anxious, tearful, and easily exited to the point of being difficult to deal with. Both authors connect these traits to the traits of lesser evolved creatures. Contrast this to a modern woman, like Michelle Obama, and we do not find the same definition of sensibility applies. Michelle Obama, under the pressure of her

husband's national presidential campaign, did not publically fall into sobbing tears. She maintained the family's cohesion, caring for the couple's daughters, while providing excellent assistance to her husband's goals using the skills and education she had gained over the years in law, public service, and private business. This is not to say that Michelle Obama did not have moments of fear or anxiety or that she did not occasionally cry on the political trail. Being under national scrutiny would certainly be difficult enough to break anyone into fits of frustration. However, she was in control of her senses to such a degree that she was often complimented for her poise and cool demeanor under pressure. Michelle Obama has a litany of accomplishments achieved prior to marriage and later outside of her husband's influence. She is largely viewed as likeable, compassionate, empathetic, with a well set moral compass. She displays the most useful aspects of sensibility. We could not imagine Dora Spenlow able to withstand the same pressures with as much dignity as Michelle Obama. She was too frail and delicate to be a useful contributor to her husband's ambitions, or to have any ambitions of her own. She was easily overwhelmed by the smallest setbacks and could not have achieved the degree of personal and professional success obtained by Michelle Obama. Wollstonecraft would be greatly impressed by the modern woman's style of sensibility. Michelle Obama is not unique in her ability to make good decisions without being overwhelmed by her emotions, or to put value on personal development. Frailty and emotional instability are no longer considered fashionable characteristics for a woman to possess. Modern women exhibit restraint in their emotions and are not constant victims of their sensibilities. This change in temperament was prescribed by Wollstonecraft and represents one of her major arguments for improvement in the status of women (1464). This change in temperament has allowed women to gain a place in society outside of the protection of men. Women are now credited with the ability to make sound decisions and are expected to participate fully in the world around them without becoming victims of their fears and

anxieties. This new temperament among women helped convince detractors that women were capable of judiciously voting or owning property, the first small step towards female leaders in politics and business. This new temperament also gave women the fortitude needed to peruse improvements in themselves, allowing them to find value in education and personal development. Formal education was the natural follower of improved temperament and an area in which women have made significant progress. Improved temperament allowed for the challenges of education to be met without apprehension. Previous generations of women did not have the unprecedented access to education which is now common place. This lack of education required them to rely on men to care for them. Modern women, having access to education, are able to secure their own financial futures, giving them independence and increased control over their lives. Women of the 18th century were primarily educated at home, or in some rare instances may have been educated in a formal setting focused exclusively on extending and refining the domestic education. Primary education of women revolved around the social responsibilities of women in terms of their appearance, decorum, and talents. Women of the past were encouraged to develop refined talents in art, music, poetry, and personal fashion as assets to attract a potential husband. These talents would later serve as entertainment for their husband upon request. The low or middle class would also acquire the necessary skills to complete duties associated with housekeeping and child rearing, while the wealthier would reject these more practical lessons for the superficial study of language or culture. Where a middle class woman might have learned the skills needed for housekeeping, an upper class woman would have relied on servants for these tasks. Neither would have received the same formal education as their male counterparts. They would not have been encouraged to study any subject with passion, to become knowledgeable in a field, or to develop skills that could aid them in providing

for their own financial future. They would not have, for instance, been taken into apprenticeships for learning a trade, or groomed for positions in business. The great majority of education for women during this time period would focus on securing a husband. Through the husband, the wife would meet her base needs for food, clothing, and shelter. Because the potential wealth of her husband was directly tied to her future comfort, a woman would be taught to cultivate those qualities which made her desirable, in particular softness and frailty, to the most affluent of potential mates. She would learn to manipulate men into wanting to care for her. Wollstonecraft contends that this lack of practical education creates women who are dependent to the point of being useless, or worse, objects of contempt (Wollstonecraft 1465). Dora serves as an example of this lack of practical education, as well. Though she is old enough to marry she is absolutely unprepared for any of the tasks associated with married life. She cannot cook, has no understanding of accounting or the household finances, cannot appropriately manage her servants, is unable to negotiate her own purchases, and serves no important function in the household other than as an object of indulgence, affection, and frustration for David. When David tries to improve upon her abilities she cries and pleads herself too frail, delicate, or unintelligent to change while at the same time promising to regain his favor (Dickens 638-642). This scenario is a perfect illustration for another of Wollstonecraft's concepts. An insipidly weak female is a liability to the overall success of the household. In comparison to a modern day woman it is the addition of formal education to the existing domestic education framework that provides opportunities for success. Martha Stewart is a great modern example of a woman who has extreme domestic aptitude. She has parlayed her domestic craft into a thriving commercial business. Formal education in public schools and later in college provided her with the skills she needed to attain national popularity on television and in print. While she focuses

on what some would consider the quainter practices of homemaking, she is nevertheless respected an intelligent, ambitious, and highly successful individual. Without access to formal education it is unlikely that Martha Stewart could have so effectively used her domestic talents to create financial independence for herself and her family. Formal education gives women the opportunity to augment their domestic knowledge with the skills necessary to provide their own food, clothing, and shelter. Not only can she manage the household as taught by her domestic education, but with the addition of a formal education she can also enter the workforce as valuable employees and make the money needed to buy her own house to manage. This independence allows women to approach relationships from an equal standing. It allows them to be equal helpmates with their partner and gives them the ability to choose a partner based on their intrinsic qualities instead of their financial resources. Wollstonecraft argued that the perfect education would, "...enable the individual to attain such habits of virtue as will render it independent" (Wollstonecraft 1464). Modern women, having access to schools, universities, apprentices, training programs, etc. are actively developing the habits that will create independence from the need to rely purely on external factors for their physical needs and emotional fulfillment. As women have become more educated their perceived value has increased. The perception of their value is a critical part of independence. A thing without deep, intrinsic, value is forever doomed to be regulated to the status of property. The most important changes in how society views women have been made in their perceived value. Women are now encouraged to develop their own talents and interests. The personality of a woman, her beliefs and morals along with her intelligence, character, humor, grace, and energy are the crux of her desirability. Her external beauty is a factor in her value, but it is not the sole nature of her being. This is a complete reversal from the 18th century, where a pretty face atop

a pretty body, dressed in pretty clothes, with pretty ways, was all that was needed for a creature to be perceived as desirable or valuable. Changing the system of value changes the very nature of women. Wollstonecraft describes women of the period as decorative, exotic flowers. Their energy is dedicated only to maintaining the fragrant bloom and not to ensuring long term survival (Wollstonecraft 1449). Once their beauty fades they have no value to offer as partners to their mates or participants in their society. Focus on beauty (expounded to include beautiful traits such as gentleness, frailty, and other desirable qualities of the day) lends itself to creating a population of useless women who are unable to contribute to their own survival. Beauty is transient. The chances that a more beautiful object exists to draw away a mate's attention along with lack of engaging attributes other than beauty combined to make women of the 18th century little more than properties which could be traded out as they became worn or when better models became available. For women who already lacked temperament and education to provide for themselves, this reliance on beauty as their main form of value was, makes them at the very least, a poor long term investment. Take for example Dora. David felt that she was the pinnacle of beauty. Her childlike manner and angelic features evoked great sentiments of love and a desire to protect and care for her. However, once it was revealed that she had no other practical use, David begins to doubt that he has made the correct decision in marrying her so soon. He still loves her, but fears for their future together. Dora is beautiful, gentle, sweet, frail, kind, and sensible according to the ideas of the day, but she is a poor investment in their collective future. She has no personal interests past playing with her pet dog or drawing pretty pictures. She has no personality beyond that which was designed to make her desirable. Though Dora dies before her beauty fails, it is hardly a stretch of the imagination to think that David would grow sour on their relationship once her petals fall if Dora does not manage to draw from herself some value beyond her physical appearance.

Modern women of the day are still fixated on their appearance. A trip down the beauty isle of any major grocery chain will show the extent of their obsession. A narrowing definition of beauty which has been cultivated by the fashion industry and the media has created fierce competition in being beautiful. This only helps to give women more intrinsic value, as the realization that beauty is not enough to succeed in life, win a mate, or secure independence prompts women to cultivate their character. Angelina Jolie is a good example of a beautiful woman with value outside of her physical appearance. There is no doubt that Jolie's beauty has contributed to her success, but it is the not the only source of her value. She is an accomplished actress and is a world renown humanitarian. She has participated in various international relief efforts and attended UN conferences on the subject. She personally donates significant portions of her income to various charitable causes and remains educated on how she and others can help those in need. Jolie will continue to maintain value as a humanitarian well educated on how to prevent suffering of others long after her beauty fades. While the average woman many not have the same degree of physical beauty as Jolie, they also have worth that supersedes their physical appearance and will continue to provide value to society long after their beauty looses prominence. Wollstonecraft believed that character development and external interests were paramount for the success of any individual, especially women. While, as a culture, we have not rejected the value of physical beauty, we have gained the understanding that beauty is transient and cannot be the basis for long term relationships or the measure by which we determine the value of all women. Women have made substantial progress toward independence since

Wollstonecraft penned her treatise on equality. Through her work we can see the long path that women have traveled to their current social status. They have become their own custodians, finding within themselves inner strength and fortitude, passion for knowledge, and desire to improve upon their character.

They no longer require men to provide for their basic survival needs and can choose partners that they are most compatible with. They can pursue their own interests and careers and are not limited by their external characteristics in terms of success and independence. There is a great debt owned on behalf of all us to those early feminists of the past who paved the way for progress. It is important to honor them by meeting our fullest potential in all areas of life and pass the same desire for growth and development to future generations. Works Cited Wollstonecraft, Mary. "A Vindication of the Rights of Women." The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Major Authors 8 th ed. Vol. B. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: Norton, 2006. Dickens, Charles. The Book Lovers Edition of The Works Of Charles Dickens: David Copperfield Vol II. Ed. John Clifford. New York: The University Society, 1909

Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication By Timothy Sexton Mary Wollstonecraft may perhaps be best known to some as being the mother of the author of Frankenstein, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, and one might well argue that her daughter could not have written that novel were it not for her mother in more ways than one. For in addition to giving birth to one of the first successful female novelists, Mary Wollstonecraft also plays a significant part in the birth of womens rights and feminism. Although modern day feminism diverges from Wollstonecrafts when it comes to some of the particulars about the duties of women in society, that conservative strain is merely an ideological subtext.

Mary Wollstonecraft was a leading social critic of her time, and not just a leading female social critic. Ironically, she may very well have been held in higher esteem by the men of her day than the women. The list of Wollstonecrafts ardent male admirers reads like a whos who of literary legends: Thomas Paine, William Wordsworth, William Blake, etc. On the other hand, the argument could be made that Wollstonecrafts feminist theories were more palatable to men than to women since they did contain certain assumptions of a womans place that may very well have resonated better with men than women. Wollstonecrafts essay A Vindication of the Rights of Women remains a solid foundations upon which all ensuing feminist theory was built. The perspective that she brings to the issue of womens rights originates from an historical point of view which has institutionally subjugated women while also exalting them. The contradictions inherent in this point of view allows for a much more rational thought process in delineating her theories, a process that enables her to go far beyond mere empiricism by engaging what had never been a topic of debate in a plea for equal rights. Wollstonecraft logically outlines a theory as to why things should be the way thinks. She introduces historical considerations when tackling the issues of why women have been viewed as physically intellectually and politically inferior to men. For instance, she begins Chapter IV by stating that there can be no argument that women are degraded by a concurrence of circumstances but then almost immediately undoes that specious argument by adopting the age-old argument that all men are but slaves in a sense. Therefore, naturally, how can it be argued that women are more so? Wollstonecraft employees the ultimate in rationality when she use a thought process to take her from point A to point B; such as when she writes that most young girls arent exposed to the opportunity to develop their thought processes fully and since they are not exposed to any serious kind of study, they are forced

to fall back upon learning etiquette and good manners. She takes on the education system by complaining about the insistence of teachers who dwell on effects and modifications only to then stand idly by instead of pursuing any sort of methodology that would trace these elements back to their original causes. She also cries out against the subtle but effective use of instilling unnecessarily complicated rules to adjust behavior, correctly illustrating that these rules are nothing less than a pitiful substitute for simple ethical principles. Wollstonecraft rabidly attacks the effects of adherence to traditional morality of her day with vigor and disregard for personal attacks. She clearly understands that it is the theoretical assumptions which are important, perhaps more so than any concrete change that can be made immediately. She seems to know that with time comes change, but first there must be someone to stand forth and call for the change. She intuits that the clarion caller is often disregarded or disgraced, but that the message being called cannot continually be ignored. She uses reason to prop up her beliefs despite the fact that all too often it is emotions and experience which causes people to finally accept revolution. And yet, there is no denying that beneath all this radical thought and cry for change there lies a subtext of conservatism. Wollstonecraft would probably be appalled by such a critique, and it may be unfair to make such a critique out of the context of the period in which she wrote, but that subtext may be a subconscious reason that radical males of her day were attracted to her. Feminism by its very nature presents a challenge to the status quo and regardless of progressive viewpoints, the status quo has always placed men above women. Wollstonecraft may have been crying out against that in her words, but the ideological influence can still be felt. After all, when she writes of education women, the primary argument is that women should be educated because they are the caretaker of education for children until they are old enough to be sent to school. And when she writes of education for women, she posits that it will

serve to strengthen the social contract known as marriage. At all points, even while she is sounding a clarion call for equality, Wollstonecraft is unconsciously-and sometimes even consciously-admitting that significant differences exist between the sexes. And if significant differences exist, how can there ever be true equality? For its time, Wollstonecraft stood well in front of the curve when it came to radical feminist thought. That her desire for co-education is the norm is proof enough of that. Although a nuance of conservatism can be found in her essay, it is easy to predict that were she alive today, that would not be the case.

Women and Sexuality in the 21st Century Can Women's Sexuality Be Free from Traditional Gender Constraints? By W. Smith Takeaways

Sex can be a liberating and educational tool for anyone, which can help you understand yourself.

The female has the right and the ability to explore her sexuality, and should do just that.

Many times it is not only the boys who make gender stereotypes but it is the girls that allow them.

Sexuality, and especially womens sexuality, has been a topic over which much debate has taken place since the Victorian age. Pages and pagesentire books have be dedicated to the subject. Renowned authors from Mary Wollstonecraft to Virginia Woolf have expressed their views and opinions on the subject in the most eloquent and subliminal literature ever written. The question over whether a womens sexuality can be free from the traditional gender constraints, is

without a doubt, one of the most controversial subjects of the 20th century, and even has carried over considerable weight into the 21st century. In the two texts: The Shame of Silence by Athena Devlin, and Lusting for Freedom by Rebecca Walker. We will explore both sides of the spectrum, those that think womens sexuality can be free from traditional gender constraints, and those that think the two are inseparably connected. In Rebecca Walkers Lusting for Freedom, Walker provides us a very intimate and personal look into her experiences with her sexuality as a young woman. She shares these experiences and thoughts as proof that, as she says, Girls need not feel guilty concerning their sexualityinstead females can celebrate their sexuality regardless of traditional gender constraints. She talks about how after the initial awkwardness she loved sex, and how by the time she was eighteen she was fluent in the language of sex, finding herself changing and modeling herself to the man she was currently courting. Shifting from the giggly virgin to the serious art student, all to capture the man she wanted, artfully playing the Woman. However, she talks about other factors that influenced her sexuality as well, she mentions curiosity, desire, and her body as large contributing factors in her sexuality. She talks about how sex was a liberating and educational tool for her, which helped her understand herself in ways that she couldnt otherwise have experienced. She cites sex and pleasure as a right that all women are born to, and that the really crime lays in the laws that deny women the right to control their bodies, the sex filled with shame, the labels of whore and slut. She claims that women are punished, as was Eve, only for seeking more knowledge about themselves and their bodies. But, she holds that even despite all these things the female has the right and the ability to explore her sexuality, and should do just that. Athena Devlin in her article The Shame of Silence provides a stark contrast from Walkers conviction that women can have and experience sexual freedom

and power and be confident and unashamed in their sexuality. Devlin too shares with us an intimate personal experience from her high school days. However, unlike Walker, Devlin shows us the difficulties of overcoming the traditional gender constraints. Constraints created not only by the boys of her high school, but the girls also. She talks about how, as a direct result of these traditional restraints, she experienced feelings of rejection, inadequacy, and in short wanted to hide from everyone. She talks about how it was not only the boys who made these gender stereotypes but it was the girls who allowed and went along with the stereotypes that caused such a problem. She talks about how in later life she has a conversation with a girl that went to the same high school and experienced many of the same things she did. They both desperately wished that those years could have been different. It was only after high school however that they shared these experiences with anyone, and that Devlin says, is the greatest tragedy of all. Realizing that it could have been different it they just could have shaken off the terrible trap of shame and talked about our lives and found ways to support each other. She comes to the realaization that if not for all the gender constraints and traditional roles that existed in her high school the girls could and would have come together and broke the silence that so confined and bound them to their traditional gender roles. I find that I can closely relate to both Walker and Devlin, as I know girls that have had similar experiences of both Walker and Devlin. I sympathize with Devlin, as I think of all friends I have over the years that where forced to have similar shameful experiences, and at the same time can think of many girls I know who, like Walker, are very comfortable in their sexuality and feel no shame in it at all. However, I feel that Devlin makes a very good point, and that in reality her experience with sexuality as a high school girl is more often the case than not. In my experience, as limited as it may be, I have found and noticed that girls are very often degraded and forced into shameful acts quite

often in high school, and that as Devlin pointed out while the boys are the ones enacting the situation, the girls themselves are to blame also as they passively accept the roles the boys have made for them, and instead of banding together to overcome those roles, they fight amongst themselves and vie for the attention of the males. It is a scenario I am all to familiar with to ignore, I can not even begin to count the times a close friend has come to me and disclosed shameful things that her boyfriend made her do, although she really didnt want to. Or listened while they explained to me all the injustices and hurts their boyfriends have caused them. Only to find that after speaking with me about it and telling me how much the disliked the situation, they go running to the same situation over and over again. It breaks their hearts every time they do it, and it breaks mine every time I see it, yet they continue to do it time and time again, due I largely suspect to the traditional gender constraints that are placed on them to please their boyfriend and be submissive and complaint to what he wants even if it is degrading or unpleasant for them as a woman. It is difficult for a woman to break free from those traditional gender constraints, and although it may be easier for them to do so in this day and age, especially in the parts of the county that are more liberal, it is much more difficult in a largely conservative area that still culturally, if not openly, holds to the idea that the woman is subservient to the man. However, at the same time, although I cant hold with Walker in saying that sexual promiscuity is the answer. I agree with her in the idea that women have the ability, right, and need to find themselves, as does any person male or female, independently of the cultural, societal, and traditional gender roles and constraints that are placed upon them. Sexuality is an important part of personality and as both Walker and Devlin commented can be when experienced in a favorable manner, lead to great joy and pleasure. The trick lies in fighting through all the predetermined roles and constraints to find out what is the best fit for you.

Introduction Mary Wollstonecraft's classic book The Vindication of the Rights of Woman, the text under discussion this week, is, in a sense, a new form of publication for us in Liberal Studiesa popular polemic, addressed to a wide audience on a contemporary social issue. The author is concerned above all, not to put forward a detailed philosophical position from first principles in order to persuade a group of professional peers or eager students, but rather to appeal to contemporary public opinion in order to achieve some practical reforms in public policy and social thinking. Unlike most works of politics and morality we have read so far, it adopts a much more public language and argumentative style and relies upon the working assumptions of the audience to which it is addressed. We need to bear this in mind, because in some ways this is an ambiguous document if we fail to appreciate its immediate purposes. And even if we do take those into account, there are still going to be some questions which we may not be able to resolve. What I wish to address in this lecture is Wollstonecraft's purpose in the Vindication. I take it that most of us have no difficulty in seeing her overall general purpose: the title itself proclaims it. But we may want to consider at greater length just how her argument sees the rights of women in modern society being vindicated. I would like to suggest at least a couple of different possibilities. A Comment on the Historical Context of the Work Since we are dealing here with a public polemic, it might be useful to mention at least one vital contemporary fact which, it strikes me, shapes a good deal of

Wollstonecraft's style. This book first appeared in 1792, at a time when public opinion and government action were profoundly different from the much more liberal atmosphere of the previous three decades. The reason, of course, is the French Revolution. And if you have no head for historical dates and events, you should at least strive really hard to remember the date 1789, the moment when the French Revolution started. This is a crucial date for understanding the nature of politics, religion, science, and social thinking for the next seventy-five years (at least), because of the tremendous fear this event inspired throughout Europe. It launched a massive counterrevolutionary sentiment which stifled reform movements (which had been growing throughout the eighteenth century) and which made reform opinion unwelcome in circles which had previously tolerated it and dangerous to proclaim. It took two generations for public opinion to get over the shock of the events which started in 1789 in Paris. Why was this? Had not the English had their revolution more than one hundred years earlier and executed their king? Had they not a few years later removed another king, forcing him to leave the country? Had not the Americans had their revolution and turned themselves into a republic? Surely the French Revolution was just one more example of such events? That was hardly the case. The earlier revolutions were firmly in the hands of the business class, the gentry, and the issue was representation in government, an equitable system of taxation, a redistribution of power from the old order to the new money. Although there had been violence and some death (especially in the English Civil War), none of these events had represented a popular uprising of the lowest classes against all authority, mass executions of people just because they were perceived as members of the old aristocracy and priesthood, a violent reordering of society. What is remarkable about the American and English

revolutions is that, once they were done, life went on much as before, except for the significant power shift in the corridors of government (which was, of course, a decisive change). At no point in either of those events did anyone have to confront the realities of an urban mob bent on having its own way against a repressive regime. With the French Revolution, things were very different. This event presented the spectacle of something new: the mob turning its pent up violent hostility against king, noble, landowner, churchman and brutally overthrowing all the old ways. In all the increasingly large European cities, people could see all around them the potential for this to happen, radical opinion eagerly awaited it, but fear quickly overcame virtually all sympathy for long overdue reforms. In all forms of life, repression quickly became the order of the day, and those who linked themselves to ideas perceived to be arising from revolutionary France were immediately social pariahs. In 1789 it might be all very well for Wordsworth to proclaim "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive" or for William Blake to put on a red hat and dance in the streets to celebrate the revolution. Once the reign of terror began, the earlier optimism was swallowed up in enormous anxiety. The government even sent out a spy to check up on Wordsworth (the report of the spy evidently revealed that he was genuinely puzzled by the young poet's behaviour, for the report to the government mentioned that Wordsworth wandered all over the place in the country accompanied by a woman who he claimed was his sister). The difference between the earlier revolutions and the French Revolution manifested itself in the different leadership. Cromwell and George Washington were eminently admirable characters, with a stake in modern society (not that they were generally liked by everyone, of course). They both demonstrated that there was a very clear line to their revolutionary ideas, and that line put the potentially revolutionary classes as far away from effective power as possible.

As educated men with experience in business and as landowners and public representatives, their priorities were widely shared. They made no effort to hide their orthodox Christian sympathies or their love of property. But who were the leaders of the French Revolution? Nobodies who appeared out of the blue to harangue the mob and urge on the executions. Who was Napoleon Bonaparte? An unknown person from an obscure family in Corsica, bent on shaping the map of Europe to fit his vision. He was an upstart, a nobody, and his example was not one to encourage. As the Revolution transformed itself into the Napoleonic Wars, this fear intensified. The great danger of France was not so much that under Napoleon's genius she might extend her Empire (although that was certainly possible) but that under her influence republican ideas might catch hold among the increasingly restless and numerous agricultural and urban poor. Hence the domestic suppression of French ideas, which had been such a stimulus to intellectual life throughout the second half of the eighteenth century, became commonplace in politics, in science, in religion, in social thought, in reform agitation. During the Napoleonic Wars, the English governments kept more soldiers stationed at home and in Ireland than they sent to serve with Wellington in the campaigns against Napoleon. And the task of those soldiers who stayed at home was evidentto keep the lid on any local agitation among the workers. It is important to remember that from 1789 on, for about the next fifty years, Europe was petrified by a repetition of the French Revolution. And that fear was very real. For the revolutionary impulse inspired reformers and gave them often an added militancy. And the conditions in the cities during the accelerating Industrial Revolution continued to get worse. If the French could overthrow those responsible for such oppression, why cannot we do it? The measures might be severe against union organizing, cries for political reforms, promoting

evolutionary sciencebut the example was there, and the desire did not go away. A Brief Digression While we're on the subject of dates, it is useful to mention three others. The first is 1815the date of the Congress of Vienna, which marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the apparent end of the French revolutionary threat. The old order was restored, along with the French monarchy, many of Napoleon's changes were repealed, and even the Spanish Inquisition was brought back. The great experiment with republican government, which had turned into an imperial government under an Emperor, seemed to have failed. In fact, of course, there was no turning back. The Congress of Vienna simply put a lid on pressures that continued to build up. That brings me to the date 1832, the year in which the events in Middlemarch take place. That date marks the passage of the Great Reform Bill in England, when, for the first time in two generations, the ruling classes reluctantly but peacefully surrendered a great deal of their power to control the government. By this time the need to reform parliament had become so urgent in the face of rising civil unrest that the House of Lords, under the prompting of the Duke of Wellington, finally conceded that certain measures were inevitable if civil war was to be avoided. And from 1832 on the various reform measures taken helped to ease the social pressures and the fears of an uprising from below. The final date to remember is 1848, the year of the publication of the Communist Manifesto, the year of revolutions, when in city after city in Europe there were spontaneous uprisings of the working people against the old order. Most of these revolutions failed badly, but eventually they persuaded the authorities to admit more and more people to the electoral process, to education,

and to professional classes and to ease up the hostility to free association among working people. Remember throughout many of these years Darwin is developing his explosive theory of Natural Selection. He is clearly aware of its revolutionary implications, and it is not stretching things to surmise that one reason he delayed publishing it for almost twenty years had to do with the social situation he perceived all around him. He would probably have waited even longer, had he not been forced into going public when another scientist, Wallace, revealed that he had independently come up with the same theory. By 1859, however, the date of the publication of the Origin of Species, the political and social situation was considerably less tense than it had been for almost seventy years.] Wollstonecraft and Rousseau What has all this to do with Wollstonecraft's work? Well, I want to suggest that some of the features we notice in this text are a direct result of the social and political climate of the age. She comes from a very reform-minded, even radical, tradition, inheriting willingly the legacy of the philosophes and the Enlightenment, and is keen to push an agenda that had become mainstream in intellectual circles in the 1760's (the husband she married later, after the Vindication, was a celebrated rational reformer, William Godwin). But she's aware that the cultural climate has changed, and one cannot conduct a successful public argument in 1792 in the same language one could use in, say, 1785. One obvious way to appreciate what had happened is to recognize the transformation in the reputation of Jean Jacques Rousseau. In the 1760's Rousseau had visited England, had been wined and dined by many eminent people, including cabinet ministers, had stayed at some very lavish country estates, and had even been offered an annual pension of one hundred pounds per year by the English king. In the 1790's Rousseau, now dead, had become the

devil incarnate, the moving spirit of godless republicanism, responsible for the horrific things going on in France. To associate oneself with Rousseau, therefore, is to put oneself beyond the pale in England, to invite instant condemnation. And heartily to thump Rousseau and call him names and damn his ideas is almost essential for a public hearing if one is going to explore things which his works discuss. It should be clear from a look at the footnotes in the Norton edition or even from the frequency with which his name appears that Wollstonecraft owes an enormous debt to her reading of Rousseau. Her moral position, to the extent that it has an intellectual grounding, is so similar to his that it would not be wrong to call them intellectual soul mates. They have one great disagreement, of course. But in making her case, Wollstonecraft is not basically breaking with Rousseau's central moral position; she is simply demanding that it be extended to women. In all other respectsin her extreme endorsement of independence over all other possible values of life, in her insistence that moral autonomy is the measure of one's humanity, in her passionate faith in education as a means of achieving such autonomy, and in many of her practical suggestions (e.g., the importance of exercise)she is picking up explicitly from Rousseau. Nevertheless, she goes out of her way to attack Rousseau in many places, particularly for something that is, in a sense, not really germane to her main argument, namely, for his impiety, for that section of Emile called "The Confession of the Savoyard Priest" (which scandalized Europe and got Rousseau into great difficulties). My own impression is that doing this is one way of proving her bona fides with her readershipshe has to show that Rousseau is a dreadful person, even while she is, in fact, continuing the intellectual tradition he best represents. That, at least, is something I sense in the book.

And this raises for me an interesting question: How radical is Wollstonecraft's polemic? Is she, as she often seems to assert, just being reasonable and asking politely and in a reassuring tone for adjustments to existing society in order to make things more equitable, what amounts in modern terms to the "Let's have a level playing field" argument? Or is she, by contrast, putting on the table a much more radical agenda than we might at first think? Just how Rousseauian is Wollstonecraft? I want to offer today two different interpretations of this book. And these correspond to two different feminist traditionsor, rather, two different parts of the feminist traditionwhich she is seen, quite correctly, as launching in modern times. The Problem Restated Both Rousseau's and Wollstonecraft's concern with the education of women stems from a new and increasingly problematic social phenomenonthe emergence of the middle-class daughter, often well educated and intelligent but with no clear value in society except as a marriage commodity. Unlike women of earlier ages (or the poorer classes) she had no real work to do, and the only meaningful role society could offer her was marriage to a middle-class man so that she could become a brood mare, producing, as the saying has it "an heir and a spare." The only alternative Wollstonecraft describes is that, if she does not marry, she becomes an unwelcome lodger in her brother's family, a constant source of trouble for her sister-in-law. This was a new problem because, in general, in earlier ages, the women in society, except in the very upper ranks, had a clear economic function. Even if there was a great disproportion in the treatment of men and women, women did have recognized social roles and therefore a social value. In a predominantly agricultural economy the farm wife and mother is essential (similarly in the small family home business). As Marx might put it, she had work to do, and

therefore she had an identity; even if in many social matters she clearly ranked below the males of the household, no one questioned her value. The new middle-class daughters had many things that their ancestors might have enviedsome education (they could read and write), often a good deal of leisure, a beckoning and tempting social world, many material benefits, and increased freedombut they often lacked what their ancestors had possessed, some meaningful occupation which conferred upon them a sense of value. And there is another problem taken up by Rousseau, allied to this one, a problem which grows directly out of Rousseau's obsession with freedom. One of his major concerns is to think through a way in which human beings can act as fully free individuals and yet also exist in a functioning society. This raises all sorts of questions, some of which I am sure you have already discussed in connection with the Social Contract. In his book Emile, to which Wollstonecraft is responding directly, Rousseau confronts a troubling question (one that has resurfaced as an urgent social issue in the last fifteen years): If a sense of freedom is the essential to the moral quality of the independent citizen, then how are we to preserve marriage? Why would any free man bother to stick around long enough to help raise the children and look after his wife if he didn't have to, since those are both large demands on one's free individualityespecially to his psychological freedom, his sense of being wholly independent (something at the centre of Rousseau's political thought). Rousseau's answer in Emile (in Chapter V, the education of Sophy, that part of Rousseau's text to which Wollstonecraft is most immediately responding) is to make the wife responsible for keeping the man at home. She is to maintain in him a sense of his freedom and yet at the same time use all sorts of feminine charms and intelligent deceptions to make sure that he wants to stay at home, still free (because no sense of a loss of liberty registers if he is doing what he freely wants to do) but also fulfilling his parental duty. The wife's job, simply

put, is to deceive the man into staying at home by sustaining for him the illusion of his freedom, by serving his need for such a psychological state. Thus, Rousseau devotes some time to outlining how society is to educate Sophy to make the nuclear family functional. That means, above all, taking care of things, so that the husband will remain a loving parent and a good citizen, without ever sensing that his freedom is being restricted. Rousseau has a view of marriage apparently quite traditional in many respects, but he does not defend that arrangement traditionally (e.g., by scripture or by appeals to the interdependence of all society along traditional lines). Rather, Sophy's education must serve and her value must come from her ability to create and sustain the family as an independent, loving social unit, something that will be able to resist the dependency on the market place and on others and which will keep the husband happy and at home. Emile's independence paradoxically is going to depend upon Sophy (though he must never be aware of that). It is important to stress that, although Rousseau's vision of the married couple may seem superficially rather like the traditional arrangements, with the man the head of the household and the wife subservient to him, his defense of this arrangement is not traditional. He bases his argument on the overwhelming importance of independence and moral autonomy, on the need to protect oneself from the market place and from other people, and upon his scientific understanding of the difference between the sexes. It's also important to stress that Rousseau is throughout his social and political writings very pessimistic. Emile is a thought experiment. The chances for ever implementing such a scheme on a widespread scale are for him very problematic, just as the chances for reorganizing society so that it is made up of Emiles and Sophies are very slim. In his more optimistic. moments, he thinks that in one or two places where conditions are just right (where, for example,

there is a small, homogeneous population of people living off the land or the sea, some reforms along the lines he suggests might be practicalas perhaps they might be in Corsica). But he is under no illusions that the changes his thought experiment involves might serve as a practical measure in, say, France. This point does not negate the importance of Rousseau. By now we should be familiar with the fact that works like Emile are important, not primarily because they offer something we can easily follow in our daily lives (although sometimes they do that), but rather because they frame the debate over important issues. As I mentioned in an earlier lecture on Rousseau's Second Discourse, they classify the problem, provide the vocabulary, and define the issues that must be addressed. Just as no serious thinker after Plato can afford to take the matter of virtue casually but must address that head on, particularly in its relationship to knowledge, or just as after Marx no serious thinker can consider social issues in detail without acknowledging the concept of class and class antagonism, so after Rousseau, no serious thinker can address the question of sexual equality without considering sexuality and its relationship to independence and the family. Wollstonecraft as a Liberal Apologist One of the first things one recognizes in reading Wollstonecraft is that she has a powerful reaction against Rousseau's program for the education of women. That, in fact, is one of the strongest energizing features of the argument. Wollstonecraft's strong reaction to Rousseau's programher attempt to define herself as Rousseau's antagonistmight be interpreted and, in fact, often is interpreted as defining what was to become the orthodox mainstream feminist tradition. Such an interpretation, in summary, might go something like this: Society is basically on the right track: Hobbes and especially Locke have told us how we should organize ourselves. Our shared faith in moral autonomy,

obligation to the law in a spirit of rational self-interest, independence, and the importance of education as a means to liberate people, all this is correct. While we are far from arriving at equality, we have the means at our disposal to promote that goal. We simply have to foster those means properly. If we do that society will progress to an improved future. Thus, advancing the highest goals of society does not require a radical restructuring of things through some revolutionary upheaval. The key procedure must be increasing access to those means for improvement. This applies to middle-class women, from whose education society can really benefit materially. If they continue to be excluded, society will suffer; it will not progress. Women must have the same rights for three main reasons: first, under present arrangements women are denied the chance to develop as moral human beings and are reduced to vain fools, frustrated old maids, or incompetent mothers; second, it is illogical to deny women the same educational opportunities as men if reason and virtue are the same in both sexes, and, third, society will benefit in all sorts of ways if women are given the same rights as men. Hence the major pitch of her appeal for the rights of women might be seen, to put it simply, as a call to extend to women the same educational opportunities as those extended to men. We don't need to alter the institutional arrangements of society; we simply need to admit women to some of them. If we do that, then we will take care of some of the problems we face, and we shall help our society improve. This is, in some ways, a reassuring message, and Wollstonecraft makes it doubly reassuring by telling us early on that she is not talking about the poor (who are politically dangerous) or about the rich, who are beyond help. Her concern is the middle-class. She repeatedly stresses that she is a firm Christian, and to make

the point clear she bashes Rousseau repeatedly for that part of his writings which aroused the most concern, his apparent abandonment of traditional Christianity, his refusal to appeal to scripture or traditional doctrine, and (in places) his dangerous suggestions that public religion should be a state concerna manufactured civil religion different from the orthodox beliefs. In addition, she is constantly telling her readers about the importance of the family and of woman's primary role in rearing children. She evidently wants us to perceive that her agenda is concerned above all to strengthen that part of society where we feel particularly threatened by all talk of novelty. She firmly endorses the notion of the public space in which people can competean important liberal principle. She says, in effect, give women access to this public space, and if we cannot hold our own, then let's concede that women are not the same as men and change things accordingly. But let us first give women a chance. Further, should experience prove that they [women] cannot attain the same degree of strength of mind, perseverance, and fortitude, let their virtues be the same in kind, though they may vainly struggle for the same degree; and the superiority of man will be equally clear, if not clearer; and truth, as it is a simple principle, which admits of no modification, would be common to both. Nay, the order of society as it is at present regulated would not be inverted, for woman would then only have the rank that reason assigned her, and arts could not be practised to bring the balance even, much less to turn it. (36) This quotation is worth lingering over for a moment. In it Wollstonecraft is announcing her firm adherence to one of the most basic liberal premises: competition in the public sphere. She is not challenging that fundamental characteristic (derived from Hobbes, Locke, and Kant). This point separates her firmly from Rousseau, for all her debts to him, because he, as we have seen, is

concerned to limit competition between human beings as a threat to one's self esteem and an important source of evil in life. She even reassures her readers that she is not out to secure the vote for women (although one might wonder whether there's a secret purpose in her bringing the point up). It might be worth noting that this stance is still very much under scrutiny, especially in the questions surrounding women's participation in the military. The principles Wollstonecraft establishes won them admission into combat roles, but the challenge she laid down about whether women could measure up or not is still being taken up. In the Gulf War, the destroyer Acadia was one of the first US Navy vessels to deploy women. When it left for the war, the ship contained three hundred and sixty women, about one quarter of the crew. By the time it returned, ten percent of the female crew were pregnant (which led to the ship's receiving the name The Love Boat). Then in October 1994 Kara Hultgreen, a Navy combat aviator, crashed and died trying to land her F-14. The cause of the crash has been determined to be pilot error, and the debate about the suitability of women to measure up in the world previously confined to men has revived (see the New Yorker, September 16, 1996, 72-73). The development of technology has greatly lessened the most obvious gap between men and womenphysical strengthbut in some areas the debate is still unresolved. In this aspect of her polemic, Wollstonecraft is establishing, as I have mentioned above, the main guidelines for the future liberal feminist movement, which sees access, education, and the changes in the laws necessary to achieve those the key elements in the struggle for women's equality. Give us a level playing field, and see if we can measure up. The practical program involves letting women into the existing corridors (or some of them) occupied by men, but no radical restructuring of social and political institutions.

To make this case, she is exploiting the problem which Rousseau creates for himself by arguing that women have to be able to deal with the marketplace and the social pressures intelligently. If Sophy is to carry out all that Rousseau wants her to do in maintaining Emile's sturdy sense of autonomy, she has to have a shrewd understanding of the society in which they live; in other words, she has to have an educated reasonable intelligence in order to carry out her main task of sustaining the family. This, of course, is the major problem in Rousseau's argument. If women are to have the more difficult role in society, if they are going to have to understand men and society sufficiently well to protect the family, and if they are going to have to be educated for these tasks, then the various things Rousseau wants them to be taught simply do not seem adequate. To deal with men in the way Rousseau demands, surely women require the chance to learn what men learn. Rousseau anticipates this stance and argues against it, making the case that if women seek to compete with men by defining themselves in terms of male virtues, then they will foster a state of society in which they are even more than before the servants of men. Men are better at being men than women are, Rousseau claims. Wollstonecraft naturally rejects this possibility, but Rousseau's point is still being made by those who think that a good deal of mainstream liberal feminism, for all its impressive record of social and political achievements, is demanding that women live by a standard foreign to them, that they become like men rather than developing fully as women. Those who, like Wollstonecraft, deny the classification of men and women as different upon which this criticism rests, obviously deny that point. I'm not going into this interpretation of Wollstonecraft any further because I think it's obvious enough. It might, however, be pertinent here to remark that this mainstream liberal feminist position, as briefly sketched out above, has developed into a major social force in the past century (at least) and that many

of the most important changes in the relations between the sexes have been introduced largely by the efforts of women following such an agenda (often with an acknowledged debt to Wollstonecraft). Even today, in spite of the many different and contested positions within the Feminist movement, this liberal view tends to predominate. Wollstonecraft as a Radical Socialist When I read this book I see readily enough the liberal position being staked out, but I often wonder to what extent there's a much more radical purpose at work here. That is, to what extent is Wollstonecraft's agenda a reasonable sounding Trojan Horse containing within in something much more potentially revolutionary than questions of access, education, and minor political reforms? Let me clarify this point by indicating first what is not particularly revolutionary about what Wollstonecraft says, although it might sound quite aggressive. Early in the essay, Wollstonecraft introduces what has become by the late eighteenth century almost a political and moral clich, namely that human beings have natural rights and that those states which deny human beings natural rights "daily insult common sense." There is nothing particularly alarming or revolutionary about such language, any more than there is in her occasional attacks on the aristocracy. By the late eighteenth century, a good deal of the English upper class had become something of a joke, and taking large swipes at them in a pointed style is fair enough, no cause for major problems. Similarly, her attacks on the consumer market place for its corruption of people's manners, especially young women's, are, by this time, commonplace. Notice, for example, the following: Thus, as wars, agriculture, commerce, and literature, expand the mind, despots are compelled, to make covert corruption hold fast the power which was formerly snatched by open force. And this baneful lurking gangrene is most

quickly spread by luxury and superstition, the sure dregs of ambition. The indolent puppet of a court first becomes a luxurious monster, or fastidious sensualist, and then makes the contagion which his unnatural state spread, the instrument of tyranny. It is the pestiferous purple--which renders the progress of civilization a curse, and warps the understanding, till men of sensibility doubt whether the expansion of intellect produces a greater portion of happiness or misery. . . (18-19) This is good fustian rhetoric attacking the aristocracy, but there's nothing particularly revolutionary about it in the 1790's. By this time, as I say, the hostility to and criticism of the nobility and the court were widespread. The madness of George III had just served to confirm what many leading people already believed. The radical potential of what Wollstonecraft is proposing comes from something else: from the frequent indications she gives that her real concern might not be simply providing some more opportunities for middle-class women but rather something much biggerextending her concepts of liberty and virtue much further than orthodox liberalism of the time would normally permit. as sound politics diffuse liberty, mankind, including woman, will become more wise and virtuous. (38) but the nature of reason must be the same in all, if it be an emanation of divinity, the tie that connects the creature with the Creator. (53) Remarks like this create in this work a subdued but clear theme that the progress of society requires the virtue of all the citizens. Since liberty is the essential precondition of such virtue, this work puts a certain pressure on the reader to recognize that there's a lot more a stake in this position than the middle-class

women whom Wollstonecraft identifies as her sole concern. And the liberty of the poor, now that is something with much more radical implications. . . . the very constitution of civil governments has put almost insuperable obstacles in the way to prevent the cultivation of the female understandingyet virtue can be built on no other foundation! (54) If the progress of society depends upon virtue in the citizens, and if the present constitution of civil society is an almost insuperable obstacle, then the implication here appears very clear: the present state of civil society must be changed, if we are to progress. The logic of her argument invites us to ask the politically explosive question: Well, if we start granting middle-class women some measures of equality with middle-class men, then why stop there? What about poor women, poor men? Such questions are the prolegomenon to much more fundamental changes than Wollstonecraft is, in other places, prepared directly to admit. Moreover, it's one thing to talk calmly about educating middle-class women differently, but to raise the issue of educating the poor (as she does on p. 62) is to bring into the argument something very different, something much more immediately threatening. In the same way, those occasions when she directs her attention to the pernicious effects of property, especially the laws of inheriting property, remind us that underlying the reassuring liberal agenda reverberates a much more radical potential: But, till hereditary possessions are spread abroad, how can we expect men to be proud of virtue? And, till they are, women will govern them by the most direct means, neglecting their dull domestic duties to catch the pleasure that sits lightly on the wing of time. (64)

it is the multitude, with moderate abilities, who call for instruction, and catch the colour of the atmosphere they breathe. This respectable concourse, I contend, men and women, should not have their sensations heightened in the hot-bed of luxurious indolence, at the expense of their understanding; for, unless there be a ballast of understanding, they will never become either virtuous or free: an aristocracy, founded on property, or sterling talents, will ever sweep before it, the alternately timid, and ferocious, slaves of feeling. (69) Once Wollstonecraft begins to focus on the problems created by private property and the laws controlling the inheritance of property, she is moving far beyond the liberal agenda I discussed earlier. For such strong hints introduce the notion that the real problem is not just a matter of access, an issue we can address with some adjustments to a social and political structure which is basically sound, but rather something built into the very nature of present society, something right at the heart of the liberal faithprivate propertyand the rights of someone who has profited greatly from the competition for wealth to hoard and pass on his success. Her agenda, in other words, might amount to a significant rethinking of economic justice (along the lines that Rousseau establishes in the Second Discourse). What these remarks do to challenge the liberal orthodoxy she seems in much of her polemic to defend, as Elissa Guralnick points out, is to indicate that the private and the public realm are not quite so easily separated as the liberal likes to maintain. To improve society we thus might have to do a great deal more than just attend to access to the public realm: we might also have to address seriously the sanctity of certain private matters, like property and inheritance. It might be useful to suggest here that one's attitude to private property and the individual's rights to acquire it, keep it, and pass it on will help to define one's political position. And if you move across that line which says that private

property will, in some ways, be drastically curtailed, and especially that the right to inherit wealth will be taken away, then you have moved beyond the main liberal position (in which private property is the keystone) to something much more disturbing. [Parenthetically, we might note that in Canada we permit private property of all sorts and the transmission of property from parents to children. But we do tax it heavily and use the money to support all the citizens] I don't think this strain in Wollstonecraft is in any way dominant, so I don't object to the notion that her reaction to Rousseau can be characterized, on the whole, as setting a liberal agenda for the issue of woman's rights. Still, with an eye on Marx coming up in our reading, I do think it is worth calling attention to the fact that she is no uncritical fan of the liberal principles and that the logic of her position would seem to imply moving into areas where the issue is not just a level playing field but rather the thorny and revolutionary demands about who owns the field and the goal posts and the ball and who is allowed to play on the various teams. And I would not put it beyond the realm of possibility that Wollstonecraft is a radical wolf in the guise of a liberal sheep. She is certainly more than sufficiently intelligent to realize that there is no way she can put her radical agenda directly on the table and secure a public hearing for her concerns. So she might well be, in effect, smuggling a Rousseauian pill into an argument that sounds on the face of it much more immediately reassuring. Wollstonecraft's Attitude to Sexuality As I mentioned above, Rousseau's book, to which Wollstonecraft is responding, seeks to think through a way in which the modern middle-class marriage might be maintained in a culture of freedom. In giving this responsibility to the woman

and insisting that she be educated properly for the responsibility, Rousseau is clearly of the view that a suitable emotional and sexual life must be maintained if the family is to function properly. Sexuality and the various emotional states that go along with it are essential for this to occur. Rousseau sees clearly that if Emile is to be a happy, independent citizen and head of a household, he must have an active, satisfying sexual life. Any problems there, and he is going to be psychologically upset and probably socially disruptive (i.e., unfaithful). So a really important part of Sophy's education (a part of Rousseau's text most offensive to many modern feminists) concerns the need for her to be educated to please her husband sexually, if necessary subordinating her own needs (sexual and otherwise) to Emile's (her satisfaction comes from preserving the family). It's easy to find much of what Rousseau says here disagreeable, but it's important to remember the premise from which he starts: the absolute need to keep the family intact, without alienating Emile. Wollstonecraft's exploration of sexuality is more equivocal. Given her insistence that women must have a chance through education to develop their rational virtue, it is not surprising that she does not have much time for Rousseau's talk of special coquettish tricks, flirtation, and charming deceptions as important for Sophy. For Wollstonecraft, as for many modern liberal feminists in that tradition, this is quite unacceptable. How then does she feel women and men should deal with one of the single most important non-rational elements of human life, sexual passion? Where, in an educational system and a life ruled by reason, virtue, and equality, does sexual passion belong? How do questions about equality and independence mesh with sexual relationships between married couples, and how will that affect the family?

Wollstonecraft's short answer is clear enough: sexual passion doesn't belong as a major priority. Sexual passion is unreliable, and love (in the passionate sense of the term) will not last; therefore, these should not take their place as the important priorities of life. In her definition of what matters most in the middleclass woman's life there is a repeated and explicit denial of the importance of sexuality. Rational friendship between equals makes the only sustainable basis for a marriage, simply because, with very very rare exceptions, romantic passion cannot be sustained for very long. Thus, training women only to serve men's passions in pleasing ways is not going to serve them well in marriage, because there's nothing they can do about the impermanence of those feelings. Why does Wollstonecraft treat sexual passion in this way? Well, a couple of answers suggest themselves. The first (which I mention here only to dismiss it) may be rooted in her personality. We know enough about her life to recognize that she was capable of strong sexual passion but that she never experienced a passionate relationship which lasted a long time (although some of those experiences happened after the writing of the Vindication). In this respect, one of the opening sentences (at the end of the first paragraph of the dedication) in the Vindication always strikes me as particularly revealing: Independence I have long considered as the grand blessing of life, the basis of every virtue--and independence I will ever secure by contracting my wants, though I were to live on a barren heath. That very powerful metaphor might well indicate someone with a personality simply unwilling or unable to make the sorts of compromises that the interdependency of lasting passion requires. If she means what she says here about independence being the very highest priority, then it's easy to see why she can be so suspicious of sexual passions and why it's better to be "barren" than dependent.

However, as I say, I'm going to dismiss that reason, since I have a natural antipathy to interpretations which rely heavily upon psychological speculation about the writer. For the treatment of sexuality in Wollstonecraft's argument is, in a sense, a logical outcome of the position she has staked out for herself. At the risk of going on about this matter, I'd like to explore it a little further, mainly because we are still in the midst of this argument. Basically, the issue centres on the key question: "To what extent is independence compatible with lasting sexual relationships, of the sort which sustain marriages and married families?" Rousseau's answer is that sexuality is essential in sustaining the family, but that it must be carried out without threatening the man's (Emile's) sense of independence and freedom. That is Sophy's main task. Rousseau sacrifices the independence of the woman (Sophy) in order to preserve sexuality in marriage with no loss of independence in the man. He does that, he says, because unless Sophy can carry out that task, Emile has no reason to stay in his marriage. He will preserve his independence by leaving. Wollstonecraft will have none of that. So she is compelled to sacrifice sexual passion as the necessary basis for lasting marriage. In her analysis, the best basis for lasting marriage is rational friendship between equals. The most repetitive point she makes in her essay is that the present education of women focuses far too much on attempts to please and tease men (i.e., to stimulate them sexually), which, as far as she is concerned, is no good basis either for the development of a morally responsible personality in men or women or for a lasting marriage. One might, therefore, want to ask about the adequacy of her treatment of sexuality. After all, the irrationality of sexual life and desire is one of the most disruptive forces in human experience for anyone who seeks to insist that life

must be organized with a clear sense of rational morality. Traditionally, sexual passion had been kept in control with powerful rituals, social and religious, and all sorts of legal, social, and financial fences around a married couple. These traditions had clearly depended upon recognizing that men and women are different biologically, socially, morally, and economically and that sexuality is personally and socially disruptive. By abandoning traditional rituals in favour of principles based on reason in the interests of justice, equality, and social progress, Wollstonecraft, like those who follow in her tradition, leave the question open: What then happens to the irrational desires of sexual passion and family love? Is that something that can be properly fostered and controlled in a climate of such rational equality? More briefly put, can people be educated to cope with their sexual lives rationally? This debate between Rousseau and Wollstonecraft is still very much alive in modern arguments about about feminism. Should we, like Rousseau, base our understanding of gender questions on the basic assumption of difference and insist that women, because they are not like men and because they have a special social role to play, especially in marriage and family life, should be educated and treated differently from menwith a special emphasis on their lives as wives and mothers; or should we, with Wollstonecraft, base our understanding of gender questions on similarity and insist that men and women should, in all the most important social and personal roles, think of themselves as equal? And how does our decision on this thorny point affect or make room for a significant sexual and family life? Or should we push the logic of Wollstonecraft's argument even further and insist, with Marx, that we resolve such problems by eliminating the family as the basic unit of society? It might be worth asking whether the elimination of the middle-class family based on marriage is or is not a logical outcome of Wollstonecraft's position (and whether she is clearly aware of that, for all her protestations about the sanctity of married life).

The present fierce arguments between and within various men's and women's groups indicate that the question is not yet off the table. These arguments manifest themselves, among other things, in modern concerns about the rising frequency of divorce and of men abandoning their families, of declining sperm counts in men, of super-moms, of teenage pregnancies, of the need for men to be in control of the family, and so on, all of which remind us that two hundred years after Wollstonecraft's important contribution this great debate, the conversations continue with no loss of urgency.