A Year of Feminist Classics

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Tag Archives: England

A Bit More on A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

Thank you so much to SilverSeason who pointed out that this book can be acquired free online. The books can be found:

  • On Project Gutenberg – A number of her Mary Wollstonecraft’s works are available here including an electronic and an audio version of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.
  • On Amazon.com for Kindle – I, in Canada, can only seem to find it for $0.89 or higher, there are a number of versions available though quite cheaply. In other parts of the world you may find different prices or versions. You can download the free Kindle for PC or Kindle for Mac application to read the books on your computer.
  • On Barnes and Noble for Nook – again, I see a number of options starting at $0.99. I believe you can also download a free application to read Nook books on your computer or smartphone.
  • Has anyone else found it free (or cheap) anywhere else for me to add to the list?

A Bit of a Ramble and a Question for Readers

I have been reading through the introduction material in my copy of the book and came across a quote that made me so happy that we are reading this book and I just had to share it right away. A Vindication of the Rights of Man was written primarily as a response to a piece written by Edmund Burke that denounced the French Revolution and their attempts at democracy. The introduction to the text I am reading says on page 10:

Burke himself claimed to not to have read it [The Vindication of the Rights of Man] (Correspondence 6:214), but his ignorance of her critique of his Reflections did not prevent him from describing Wollstonecraft (in 1975) as one of “that Clan of desperate, Wicked, and mischievously ingenious Women, who have brought, or are likely to bring Ruin and shame upon all those that listen to them” (Correspondence 8: 304).

I figure anyone who garnered that kind of reaction is certainly worth reading! I certainly giggled at the quote.

I want to point out the two posts that Jillian at A Room of One’s Own has posted on Wollstonecraft over the past three days. She posted an introduction about how Wollstonecraft has been considered through the ages titled Mary Wollstonecraft – a “bitch”?. The post was a hilarious look at early feminism (like, Wollstonecraft and even one who came before her!).

Her second post was titled A thought: On reading history and in it she talks about how exciting it is to think of all of those historical figures through the ages who have read the same book and had similar thoughts on it. Fascinating!

What that quote I shared, as well as everything else I’ve read on Wollstonecraft including Jillian’s two posts, has made me think of is how important reputation was to female authors and intellectuals (and all females really). If we think of historic male writers they could do anything they wanted in their personal lives with no (or at least little) repercussions to what people thought of their intellectual works and articles. As a female author Wollstonecraft was vilified and her works ignored and forgotten once the truth came out about her life after her death.

Wikipedia reads:

In January 1798 Godwin published his Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Although Godwin felt that he was portraying his wife with love, compassion, and sincerity, many readers were shocked that he would reveal Wollstonecraft’s illegitimate children, love affairs, and suicide attempts.[45] The Romantic poet Robert Southey accused him of “the want of all feeling in stripping his dead wife naked” and vicious satires such as The Unsex’d Females were published.[46]

I talked briefly about this in my last post, saying that reaction to her Vindication of the Rights of Woman was actually quite favorable and opinion only changed after her death. I am very interested in hearing your opinion on this matter.

Were you as surprised as I was that the reaction was initially favorable to this work? And surprised at how devastating the repercussions of the memoir were? I am of the opinion that Godwin, being a male, probably assumed the same standards he was subjected to would be the standards that Wollstonecraft would be judged by and so saw nothing wrong with talking about the details of her life. I wonder if he was surprised at the reaction his book actually received.

Do you think reputation and life still matters as much for women in terms of their intellectual achievements? Would women’s works today be dismissed after details of their personal lives came out? Unfortunately while I think things have improved slightly, I think a female is still held to much more stringent morals and values.

I’d be interested to hear your opinions on both thoughts in the comments!

Another post on the topic shows up here from De Zesde Clan. I can’t translate it, but I thank the author of the website for joining us and discussing this book and Mary Wollstonecraft with us.

Note: If you have posted a discussion on the topic of this book or author please add your link in the comments and I will add it to the next round-up / discussion post.

In closing, a quick SQUEE of excitement that we’ve been mentioned on The F Word, a contemporary UK feminist blog! I do hope that we get more participants through that and I look forward to the discussions!