Pages: 352 pages
Published: (First Published in 1790) October 28th 2004
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Genre: Nonfiction, Classics, History
Writing in an age when the call for the rights of man had brought revolution to America and France, Mary Wollstonecraft produced her own declaration of female independence in 1792. Passionate and forthright, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman attacked the prevailing view of docile, decorative femininity, and instead laid out the principles of emancipation: an equal education for girls and boys, an end to prejudice, and for women to become defined by their profession, not their partner. Mary Wollstonecraft’s work was received with a mixture of admiration and outrage – Walpole called her ‘a hyena in petticoats’ – yet it established her as the mother of modern feminism.
“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.”
That is just one of the many inspiring quotes you from Mary Wollstonecraft’s most famous work. Wollstonecraft discusses an issue that will be ongoing for centuries to come: women’s rights. Wollstonecraft’s social commentary on women’s rights is inspiring and insightful work of historical literature. In this political climate, I felt it was necessary to read more political books, books that exemplified the importance of equal rights for everyone. Her words are eloquent and and I am not afraid to say, very ballsy. She spoke her mind, a rarity in the 18th century for a woman, and not afraid of what society thought of her but wanted to listen to her philosophical words.
Many people may feel that Wollstonecraft’s words and views are outdated and not relevant to today’s issues. However, that it is not true. There was one particular that was resonant (one of many) that really made me think about the actions of our society. She writes,
The great misfortune is this, that they both acquire manners before morals, and a knowledge of life before they have, from reflection, any acquaintance with the grand ideal outline of human nature. The consequence is natural; satisfied with common nature they become a prey to prejudices, and taking all their opinions on credit they blindly submit to authority. So that, if they have any sense, it is a kind of instinctive glance, that catches proportions, and decides with respect to manners; but fails when arguments are to be pursued below the surface, or opinions analyzed.
Wollstonecraft compares the mindset of soldiers to what women are expected of them. Women are just expected to follow orders, not have any ideas and opinions of their own. And reading that quote, not only did I feel it rang true for women, but applying that thought to both sexes made it even more factual. We are expected to blindly follow, especially when it comes to politics, not question and not have opinions on anything that we may object. It was these type of thoughts that encouraged me to see which opinions and observations matched along with the 21st century.
Don’t get me wrong there were some opinions of Wollstonecraft that I did not agree with, such as a woman should not have passion in her marriage since it prevents her from thinking for herself and other remarks that were may appear to be condescending to other readers. You won’t agree with everything Wollstonecraft writes but difference of opinions should not hurt the impact of her thoughts and how insightful she was and definitely a woman that was ahead of her time.
I loved this book and it definitely was a great example of feminist literature, one of the first. I was highly inspired while reading this book and made me realize that the fight is still going on. It encouraged to fight what is my natural born right. Wollstonecraft may have ruffled feathers when she published this book, but this needed to be said. The education of women is of vital importance, unfortunately I feel that we are taking for granted. Hopefully, with everything that is going on, this book may help heightened its importance.
Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars