Wollstonecraft, Mary (1759–1797)

Mary Wollstonecraft was a writer and feminist. She is one of the founders of American and British feminism, whose most famous work, Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), is widely viewed as the first great feminist treatise. In the late 18th century, Wollstonecraft became a member of a London circle of libertarian authors, among them Percy Bysshe Shelley and William Godwin, whom she later married. Wollstonecraft embraced the Enlightenment, a social revolution that celebrated reason as the core of human identity and which sought to reconstruct social institutions, such as the family, by our rational understanding. Her contributions to this approach included applying the principle of personal liberty to the sexual realm and her insistence that women were “rational creatures.” She rejected the traditional ...

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