Essay: Mary Wollstonecraft "Freedom, Even Uncertain

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[. . .] 1978). With this equal treatment women can enter any profession and have careers just the same as men.

The most radical of all theories by Mary Wollstonecraft was proposing that boys and girls should be educated together; such an idea was never brought forward before. The idea of co-educational schooling was simply regarded as nonsense by many educational thinkers of the time (Taylor, et al. 1983). It was a fashionable belief that if women were educated and not docile, husbands would lose any power they had over their wives. 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'.

Mary Wollstonecraft preferred co-educational day schools, where lessons are given by informal controversial methods, with lots of physical exercise both free and organised. Her idea of an ideal family was that the babies were nourished by an intelligent mother and not sent away to boarding schools and brought up by nanny's and fathers were friends with his children rather than dictators. 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.

Political Contribution:

During the late 17th century in Western Europe, single women had little protection under the law and married women though had the desired protection but no identity of their own. Women couldn't get a lawyer, sign a contract, inherit property, vote or have rights over their children. Basically women, single or married were stripped of their social and political rights. Husband and wife were considered one person in law, that is, the very being or legal existence of woman is suspended during marriage or is consolidated into that of the husband, under whose supervision and protection she performed everything (Lewenhawk, et al. 1977).

Then along came Mary Wollstonecraft who caused a sensation by writing A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). She declared that both women and men were human being given equal rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. She called for women to be educated, wrote extensively about their participation politics and gave the Queens example. She also insisted that women should be free to enter business and have professional and political careers and strongly protested the law for not allowing women to vote. "I speak of the improvement and emancipation of the whole sex," she declared. "Let woman share the rights, and she will emulate the virtues of man; for she must grow more perfect when emancipated. . . ."

Mary Wollstonecraft insisted on the necessity of democracy and equality before law. Whenever artificial divisions of ranks were introduced, the higher-up became tyrannical and the lower down become resentful (and have no motive to refrain from vice when the authority figure is not around) (Thompson, et al. 1976). Hierarchy inhibits the moral development of the whole human race. So was the case for women, men ruled everything and women were the "service" one had to take care of the house while the dictator of the house went out to celebrate his independence.

Wollstonecraft hence applied the basic human right of the situation of women. She argued that there are no difference between men's and women's applies these basic human-rights principles to the situation of women. She argues that there are no differences between men's personalities and abilities. The only difference that existed had only been introduced by men to keep women inferior in position, and women with no knowledge about their rights accepted this sentence till they died, because of the temporary and token benefits they receive.


Wollstonecraft always argued that to confine women to the separate domestic sphere because of supposed limitations of their physiology was only making them sensual slaves to men. Confined in this separate sphere, they were the victims of male tyranny, their obedience was blind, and they could never achieve their own moral or intellectual identity. If education was denied to women, this would impede the entire humanity. She was demanding for women the kind of liberty that male writers of the Enlightenment had been championing for men for more than a century. Mary Wollstonecraft portrays that argument as defending the continued bondage of women to men and as hindering the wider education of the entire human race.


Banks, O. (1986) Faces of Feminism Blackwell

Bouchier, D. (1983) The Feminist Challenge Macmillan

Brennan, T. And Pateman, C (1979) 'Mere auxilaries to the Commonwealth: Women and the Origins of Liberalism' Political Studies 27, no.2

Evans, J. (1980) 'Women in Politics: a reappraisal' Political Studies 28, no.2

Evans, R. (1977) The Feminists: Womens Emancipation Movements in Europe, America and Australasia 1840-1920 Croom Helm

Evans, R. (1987) Comrades and Sisters: Feminism Socialism and Pacifism in Europe 1870-1945 Wheatsheaf

Kingsley Kent, S. (1990) in Sex and Suffrage Britain 1860-1914 Routledge

Lewenhak, S. (1977) Women and Trades Unions: an outline history of women in the British

Trades Union Movement Ernest Benn

Lewis, J (1980) 'In search of real equality: women between the wars' in Gloversmith, F. (ed) Class, Culture and Social Change: a New View of the 1930's Harvester

Liddlington, J and Norris, J (1978) One Hand Tied Behind Us: The Rise of the Womens Suffrage

Movement Virago

Midgely, C. (1995) Women Against Slavery: the British Campaigns 1780-1870 Routledge.

Randall, V. And Lovenduski, J. (1995) op cit

Rowbotham, S. (1974) Hidden from History Pluto

Pierson, R.R (1987) Women and Peace: Theoretical, Historical and Practical Perspectives Croom


Purvis, J. And Holton, S. (eds) (2000) Votes for Women. Routledge.

Sarah, E. '(1983) 'Christobel Pankhurst - reclaiming her power' in Spender (ed) op cit

Strach, R. (1978) The Cause: a short history of the women's movement in Great Britain Virago (orig published 1928)


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