: If liberal theory is to move forward, it must take the political nature of family relations seriously. The beginnings of such a liberalism appear in Mary Wollstonecraft's work. Wollstonecraft's depiction of the family as a fundamentally political institution extends liberal values into the private sphere by promoting the ideal of marriage as friendship. However, while her model of marriage diminishes arbitrary power in family relations, she seems unable to incorporate enduring sexual relations between married partners.
Mary Wollstonecraft and Virginia Woolf criticize the social construction of the soldier and argue that gender hierarchy relies on particular constructions of masculinity and femininity. Both contend that private tyrannies lead to public ones, and that men's domination in families provides a model for public domination. This reveals the social and psychological conditions which replicate domination, violence, and war. I examine how gender constructs promote and participate in the psychological conditions necessary for war.
Mary Wollstonecraft argues that women must be independent citizens, but that they cannot be that unless they fulfill certain duties as mothers. This is problematic in a number of ways, as argued by Laura Brace in a 2000 article. However, I argue that if we understand Wollstonecraft's concept of independence in a republican, rather than a liberal context, and at the same time pay close attention to her discussion of motherhood, a feminist reading of Wollstonecraft is not only possible but (...) enriching. I will attempt to show, in particular, that the seeds of a feminist argument for co-parenting are to be found in the Vindication of the Rights of Woman. (shrink)
This article examines Mary Wollstonecraft's public reception in American newspapers from 1800 to 1869. Wollstonecraft was portrayed to the American public as a philosopher of women's rights, a new model of femininity, and a pioneer of women's political activism. Although these iconic uses of Wollstonecraft were regularly negative, they grew more positive as the women's rights movement gained steam alongside the abolition movement.
Summary It has often been repeated that Wollstonecraft was not read for a century after her death in 1797 due to the negative impact of her husband William Godwin's Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1798) on her posthumous reputation. By providing the first full-scale reception history of Wollstonecraft in continental Europe in the long nineteenth century?drawing on rare book research, translations of understudied primary sources, and Wollstonecraft scholarship from the nineteenth century to the (...) present?this article applies a revised Rezeptionsgeschichte approach to tracing her intellectual influence on the woman question and organised feminism in Europe. Although the Memoirs and post-revolutionary politics everywhere dampened and even drove underground the reception of her persona and ideas in the first decades of the nineteenth century, Wollstonecraft's reception in nineteenth-century continental Europe, like the United States, was more positive and sustained in comparison to the public backlash she faced as a ?fallen woman? in her homeland of Britain through the bulk of the Victorian era. (shrink)
William Godwin became a leading public intellectual during the crisis in British politics which followed the French Revolution. The impact of his social theories was acknowledged by almost every significant literary figure in Britain for the next quarter-century, and his influence endured much longer in Europe. He married Mary Wollstonecraft, the early advocate of women's rights, and was the father of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. All of his letters are published for the first time in this edition. The first (...) volume (1778-1797) includes scores of texts newly transcribed from the original manuscripts and given scholarly annotation for the first time. The letters trace the development of Godwin's personality from his background in English religious nonconformity, through his early struggle for recognition as a gifted writer, to his years of fame in the 1790s. They illuminate his most celebrated works, An Enquiry concerning Political Justice (1793) and the novel Caleb Williams (1794); his intervention in the treason trials of 1794; and his relations with publishers. They reveal his intellectual and emotional mentorship of a succession of creative men and women. They chart his education in a 'new language' of feeling through his courtship of Mary Wollstonecraft, and bear witness to the shock of her early death. Godwin's letters reflect the cultural history of his times, and throw light on many other literary, political, and artistic figures. These letters record the personal and professional interactions of an original thinker who had a lasting influence on progressive movements in Britain and Europe, and is still widely read today. (shrink)
Independence is a central and recurring theme in Wollstonecraft’s work. Independence should not be understood as an individualistic ideal that is in tension with the value of community but as an essential ingredient in successful and flourishing social relationships. I examine three aspects of this rich and complex concept that Wollstonecraft draws on as she develops her own notion of independence as a powerful feminist tool. First, independence is an egalitarian ideal that requires that all individuals, regardless of sex, are (...) protected to a comparable extent in all areas of social, political and economic life, no matter whether this is in the public or private sphere. Secondly, so long as this egalitarian condition is not compromised, independence allows for individuals to perform differentiated social roles, including along gendered lines. Finally, the on-going and collective input of both women and men is required to ensure that the conditions necessary for social independence are maintained. In Wollstonecraft’s hands, then, independence is a powerful ideal that allows her to argue that women must be able to act on their own terms as social and political equals, doing so as women whose perspectives and interests may differ from men’s. (shrink)
Even long after their formal exclusion has come to an end, members of previously oppressed social groups often continue to face disproportionate restrictions on their freedom, as the experience of many women over the last century has shown. Working within in a framework in which freedom is understood as independence from arbitrary power, Mary Wollstonecraft provides an explanation of why such domination may persist and offers a model through which it can be addressed. Republicans rely on processes of rational public (...) deliberation to highlight and combat oppression. However, where domination is primarily social rather than legal or political (such as where cultural attitudes, traditions and values exert an arbitrary and inhibiting force) then this defence against domination is often negated. Prejudice, she argues, ‘clouds’ people’s ability to reason and skews debate in favour of the dominant powers, thereby entrenching patterns of subjection. If they are to be independent, then, citizens require not only political rights but a platform from which to add their perspectives and interests to the background social values which govern political discussion. (shrink)
Commentators on the work of Catharine Macaulay acknowledge her influence on the pioneering feminist writing of Mary Wollstonecraft. Yet despite Macaulay's interest in equal education for women, these commentators have not considered that Macaulay offered a self-contained, sustained argument for the equality of women. This paper endeavors to show that Macaulay did produce such an argument, and that she holds a place in the development of early feminism independent of her connections with Wollstonecraft.
This book examines the philosophical foremothers of women’s philosophy and explores what their work may have to offer modern theorizing in feminist ethics. Through such writers as Catharine Macaulay, Mary Wollstonecraft, and George Eliot, Gardner interprets a varied selection of moral philosophers in an attempt both to contribute to our understanding of their work, and perhaps even to encourage other philosophers to interpretive work of their own. She also looks into the reasons such forms as novels, letters, and poetry have (...) often been assigned non-philosophical status, while they seem to be prevalent in the work of women philosophers from the history of philosophy. (shrink)
Enlightenment optimism over mankind's progress was often voiced in terms of botanical growth by key figures such as John Millar; the mind's cultivation marked the beginning of this process. For agriculturists such as Arthur Young cultivation meant an advancement towards virtue and civilization; the cultivation of the mind can similarly be seen as an enlightenment concept which extols the human potential for improvable reason. In the course of this essay I aim to explore the relationship between ?culture? and ?cultivation? through (...) botanical metaphor. By using the recurring motif of the mind's cultivation as a site from which to explore enlightenment views on female understanding, I investigate how far concerns with human progress extended to the female mind. I examine the language of botany and cultivation in texts by authors such as Mary Wollstonecraft and Anna Laetitia Barbauld alongside that of Rousseau and Millar. Wollstonecraft's appropriation and subsequent inversion of the conventional cultivation metaphor, for example, demonstrates her desire to draw attention to society's neglect of women's educational potential by substituting images of enlightened growth with those of luxuriant decay. By pushing this analogy further she indicates how society has cultivated women rearing them like exotic flowering plants or ?luxuriants? where ?strength of body and mind are sacrificed to libertine notions of beauty?. I discuss the antipastoral rationalism which enables her to unmask the false sentiment behind this traditional metaphoric association between women and flowers arguing that such familiar tropes are the language of male desire and are indicative of women's problematic relationship to culture. (shrink)
According to Wollstonecraft . This suggests that for her ethical judgement is based on reason, and so she is an ethical cognitivist. This impression is upheld by the fact that she clearly believes in the existence of ethical truth and has little sympathy with subjectivism. At the same time, she places a great deal of importance on the role of the emotions in ethical judgement. This raises the question how the emotions can be relevant if ethics consists in a realm (...) of truths, discoverable by reason. The paper answers this question and clarifies Wollstonecraft's model of the interaction of emotion and reason by comparing it with those of Rousseau, Godwin, Price and Adam Smith. It argues that the originality of Wollstonecraft's position resides in the way she understands the role of the imagination in ethical reasoning. (shrink)
I examine recent arguments to the effect that there are significant logical, conceptual, historical, or psychosexual connections between the subordination of women and the subordination of nature and argue that they are all problematic. Although there are important connections between women’s emancipation and the achievement of important environmental goals, they are practical connections rather than conceptual ones.
It is standard in feminist commentaries to argue that Wollstonecraft's feminism is vitiated by her commitment to a liberal philosophical framework, relying on a valuation of reason over passion and on the notion of a sex-neutral self. I challenge this interpretation of Wollstonecraft's feminism and argue that her attempt to articulate an ideal of self-governance for women was an attempt to diagnose and resolve some of the tensions and inadequacies within traditional liberal thought.
The concept of truth is one of the pivotal elements in Mary Wollstonecraft’s works. In line with her philosophical treatise, Maria: or the Wrongs of Woman(published posthumously in 1798) it becomes a paradigmatic expression of her thought. The author textualizes the obfuscation of the truth and the repression ofthe heorine’s self because of her unconventional conduct not judged in consonance with the social rules that govern patriarchal institutions. The novel might be read as a profound reflection on any form of (...) prejudice and intellectual confinement of its time in which woman strives to regain her role as individual. (shrink)
Nearly two hundred years ago, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote what is considered to be the first major work of feminist political theory: A Vindication of the Rights of Women . Much has been written about this work, and about Wollstonecraft as the intellectual pioneer of feminism, but the actual substance and coherence of her political thought have been virtually ignored. Virginia Sapiro here provides the first full-length treatment of Wollstonecraft's political theory. Drawing on all of Wollstonecraft's works and treating them thematically (...) rather than sequentially, Sapiro shows that Wollstonecraft's ideas about women's rights, feminism, and gender are elements of a broad and fully developed philosophy, one with significant implications for contemporary democratic and liberal theory. The issues raised speak to many current debates in theory, including those surrounding interpretation of the history of feminism, the relationship between liberalism and republicanism in the development of political philosophy, and the debate over the canon. For political scientists, most of whom know little about Wollstonecraft's thought, Sapiro's book is an excellent, nuanced introduction which will cause a reconsideration of her work and her significance both for her time and for today's concerns. For feminist scholars, Sapiro's book offers a rounded and unconventional analysis of Wollstonecraft's thought. Written with considerable charm and verve, this book will be the starting point for understanding this important writer for years to come. (shrink)
The land of chimeras -- Rousseau's half-being -- Navigating the land of chimeras with our only star & compass -- John Locke's other half being -- Nature does nothing in vain -- The foundation of almost every social virtue -- In a word, a better citizen.
This essay argues that a recurrent concern among feminist scholars to "get Wollstonecraft's (proto-)feminism right" risks (1) limiting how we understand her contributions to the politics of the post-Revolutionary period and (2) limiting how we understand those politics to be gendered. The argument unfolds through a rhetorical analysis that traces Wollstonecraft's efforts to bring order to the practices of reading and writing. In their attempts to discipline literacy, her writings simultaneously challenge and exploit gender practices and identities; in so doing (...) they underscore the significance ofprint culture to the political and sexual struggles of the late eighteenth century. The essay concludes that this significance suggests a need for more detailed analyses of the links between the politics of print culture and the formation of public spheres. (shrink)
Wollstonecraft's early works express a coherent view of moral psychology, moral education and moral philosophy which guides the construction of her early fiction and educational works. It includes a valuable account of the relation between reason and feeling in moral development. Failure to recognize the complexity and coherence of the view and unhistorical readings have led to mistaken criticisms of Wollstonecraft's position. Part I answers these criticisms; Part II describes and textually supports her view.