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Mary Wollstonecraft's contribution to the development of feminist thought in Britain is undeniable. As a polemical writer, greatly influenced by the radical, pro-revolutionary thinking of the 1790s, she argued forcefully for the recognition of women as equal to men both intellectually and legally.

Born into an impoverished middle-class family, Wollstonecraft had to support herself financially from an early age. Brief experiences as a governess and a schoolteacher led to her first book, Thoughts on the Education of Daughters (1787), a conventional work illuminated by flashes of insight into the disadvantages of women's position in society. By 1788, she had become a full-time writer, working as a reviewer for The Analytical Review and publishing a further educational work, Original Stories from Real Life.

The beginning of the ...

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