Hypatia 29 (4):942-957 (2014)

Lena Halldenius
Lund University
The scholarship on Mary Wollstonecraft is divided concerning her views on women's role in public life, property rights, and distribution of wealth. Her critique of inequality of wealth is undisputed, but is it a complaint only of inequality or does it strike more forcefully at the institution of property? The argument in this article is that Wollstonecraft's feminism is partly defined by a radical critique of property, intertwined with her conception of rights. Dissociating herself from the conceptualization of rights in terms of self-ownership, she casts economic independence—a necessary political criterion for personal freedom—in terms of fair reward for work, not ownership. Her critique of property moves beyond issues of redistribution to a feminist appraisal of a property structure that turns people into either owners or owned, rights-holders or things acquired. The main characters in Wollstonecraft's last novel—Maria, who is rich but has nothing, and Jemima, who steals as a matter of principle—illustrate the commodification of women in a society where even rights are regarded as possessions
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DOI 10.1111/hypa.12116
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