Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) Publishes A Vindication of the Rights of Man in 1791 A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

(1792) Wollstonecraft raises the classic question of nature vs. nurture: . . .either Nature has made a great difference between man and man, or that the civilization which has hitherto taken place in the world has been very partial (1134). She concludes that the fault has been with nurture. As she consults books on education, she comes to the conclusion that the neglected education of my fellow-creatures is the grand source of the misery I deplore, and that women , in particular,

are rendered weak and wretched by a variety of concurring causes, originating from one hasty conclusion (1134). What is this hasty conclusion Wollstonecraft cites? What conclusion can you draw from the following? One cause of this barren blooming [the failure of women to develop mental strength and usefulness] I attribute to a false system of education, gathered from books written on this subject by men who, considering females rather as women

than human creatures, have been more anxious to make them alluring mistresses than affectionate wives and rational others (1134). Wollstonecraft argues that the education of women has focused only on making them alluring mistresses, and thus the minds of women are enfeebled by false refinement, and they are treated as a kind of subordinate beings, and not as part of the human species

(1135). Wollstonecraft recognizes that the primacy of men has been based on a physical fact: In the government of the physical world it is observable that the female in point of strength is, in general, inferior to the male. This is the law of Nature (1135). She then argues that men have used mere physical superiority to consign women to a lower status: But not content with this natural preeminence, men endeavor to sink us still lower,

merely to render us alluring objects for a moment (1135). Next, she examines the linguistic trickery inherent in the term masculine: From every quarter I have heard exclamations against masculine women, . . . but if it be against the imitation of manly virtues, or, more properly speaking, the attainment of those talents and virtues, the exercise of which ennobles the human character, and which raises females in the scale

of animal being, when they are comprehensively termed mankind, all those who view them with a philosophic eye must, I should think, wish with me, that they may every day grow more and more masculine (1135). Note that talents and virtues which ennoble the human character are called manly virtues. Thus, Wollstonecraft argues that what is termed the masculine describes general human virtues, while the feminine is relegated

to attributes attractive to men, and these attributes (physical beauty, refinement, passivity and so forth) are associated with weakness. Wollstonecrafts next argument has both a religious and humanistic element: namely that we are born with faculties (or gifts) which we are intended to develop: I shall first consider women in the grand light

of human creatures, who, in common with men, are place on this earth to unfold [develop] their faculties (1135). In the sixth paragraph of the authors introduction we see a class issue: . . .the instruction which has hitherto been addressed to women,

rather has been applicable to ladies, if the little indirect advice that is scattered through Sanford and Merton be excepted (1135). Wollstonecraft makes it clear she is addressing women of the middle class. They are the ones most likely to benefit from the educational reforms she desires:

I pay particular attention to those in the middle class, because they appear to be in the most natural state. Perhaps the seeds of false refinement, immorality, and vanity have ever been shed by the great. Weak, artificial beings, raised above the common wants and affections of their race, in a premature unnatural manner, undermine the very foundation of virtue, and spread corruption through the whole mass of society! As a class of mankind they have the strongest claim to pity; the education of the rich tends to render them vain and

helpless, and the unfolding mind is not strengthened by the practice of those duties which dignify the human character (1135-6). We may infer that Wollstonecraft hopes to avoid for middle class women the false delicacies that ladies are tutored with, and wishes her middle class audience to indulge her if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces,

and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood (1136). In the ninth through tenth paragraphs, Wollstonecraft brings in a linguistic and moral objection. She declares she will avoid those pretty and feminine phrases that men usually identify with femininity and elegance. She wants readers to take her argument seriously: I wish to show that elegance is inferior to virtue, that the first object of

laudable ambition is to obtain a character as a human being, regardless of the distinction of sex (1136). She vows I will disdain to cull my phrases and polish my style. I aim at being useful, and sincerity will render me unaffected; for wishing rather to persuade by the force of my arguments than dazzle by the elegance of my language, I shall not waste my time in

rounding periods, or in fabricating the turgid bombast of artificial feelings, which, coming from the head, never reach the heart (1136) Wollstonecraft understands how flowery language can impress and fool some readers, but for her, such language masks the truth and is vapid and insincere: Those pretty superlatives, dropping glibly from the tongue, vitiate the taste, and create a kind of sickly delicacy that turns away from simple

unadorned truth; and a deluge of false sentiments and overstretched feelings, stifling the natural emotions of the heart, render the domestic pleasures insipid, that ought to sweeten the exercise of those severe duties, which educate a rational and immortal being for a nobler field of action (1136). In the twelfth paragraph, Wollstonecraft decries the current state of womens education that renders them frivolous and

objects that strength of body and mind are sacrificed to libertine notions of beauty, remarking that women raised this way are only fit for a seraglio. Para. 13: . . . the instruction which women have hitherto received has only tended, with the constitution of civil society, to render them

insignificant objects of desiremere propagators of fools! (1137). Para. 15 Wollstonecraft ends her introduction reminding men that women are degraded by mistaken notions of female excellence, and that this artificial weakness produces a propensity to tyrannize, and gives birth to

cunning, the natural opponent of strength, which leads them to play off those contemptible infantine airs that undermine esteem even whilst they excite desire 1137).

Recently Viewed Presentations

  • 2018 SBA Virtual Learning Series - Gallatin, Tennessee

    2018 SBA Virtual Learning Series - Gallatin, Tennessee

    If market research indicates one WOSB and multiple SBs, you must consider a WOSB sole source award before SB set-asides. FAR 19.1505(a) & 19.1506(a). Important WOSB Considerations . ... I have decided to compete among GSA Schedule contract holders. I...
  • Chemical Equations and Reactions - SCH3U

    Chemical Equations and Reactions - SCH3U

    Hydrogen Oxygen Fluorine Bromine Iodine Nitrogen Chlorine HOFBrINCl * HOFBrINCl Elements that exist as diatomic molecules. Cl2 is electrically neutral, whereas in a compound such as NaCl, chlorine is the chloride ion with a negative charge.
  • The Most Significant Canadian of the Post War Era

    The Most Significant Canadian of the Post War Era

    The Most Significant Canadian of the Post War Era The Task at Hand You will be putting together either a presentation or a display board arguing why the figure you have chosen has had the greatest impact on the last...
  • PowerPoint Presentation

    PowerPoint Presentation

    Review Key Business Processes & Deliverables. Validate Core Processing Tasks - All Institutions. Validate Touch-Points with and Hand-Offs to Other Groups (HR, Payroll, Shared Services Center, Institution Practitioners, etc.) ... AU, and UGA (capturing deductions based on 6/1 data plus...
  • Greek Gods - The World of Teaching

    Greek Gods - The World of Teaching

    Athena Goddess of crafts, domestic arts and war Symbol is the owl Patron deity of Athens *Link here* Poseidon God of all water, earthquakes and horses Brother of Zeus and Hades Often turned himself into the shape of a horse...
  • Main Title 32pt - Sandia National Laboratories

    Main Title 32pt - Sandia National Laboratories

    For the currently dominant AlGaInN device technology, which relies on growth of GaN layers grown on c-plane sapphire, this buffer may be the most important step in the realization of device quality GaN material (OIDA, 2002). One method of buffering...
  • Evolution - Welcome toMrs. Powell'sWebsite

    Evolution - Welcome toMrs. Powell'sWebsite

    During his travels, Darwin saw great diversity. In a single day, he found 68 species of beetles and he wasn't even looking for them! Darwin saw that only certain animals lived in certain places even when the climates were the...
  • Lesson 1  Introduce LangChang as taught module for

    Lesson 1 Introduce LangChang as taught module for

    Advertisers draw towards active lifestyles in men, as this was the typical norm of the 1950s. Whilst women stayed at home, minding the children and putting dinner on the table in time for their husband's arrival, men were out in...