A Vindication of the Rights of Woman cover

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)

00:00(1/21) Chapter 00a00:00
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1. Chapter 00a
2. Chapter 00b
3. Chapter 01
4. Chapter 02
5. Chapter 03
6. Chapter 04a
7. Chapter 04b
8. Chapter 04c
9. Chapter 05a
10. Chapter 05b
11. Chapter 05c
12. Chapter 05d
13. Chapter 06
14. Chapter 07
15. Chapter 08
16. Chapter 09
17. Chapter 10
18. Chapter 11
19. Chapter 12 – 01:
20. Chapter 13a
21. Chapter 13b

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Summary

Regarded as the one of the earliest examples of feminist philosophy, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is written as a direct response to Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, a French politician who delivered a report to the French National Assembly suggesting that women should only receive domestic education and additionally encourages women to stay clear of political affairs. In her treatise, Wollstonecraft avidly criticizes this inadequate perception of women as an inferior sex and attacks social inequality, while also arguing for women’s rights in the hope of redefining their position both in society and in marriage. Exploring themes of oppression, feminism, social reforms, education, sensibility, reason, and marriage, Wollstonecraft successfully sets the foundation for liberal feminism which had later inspired many to express their support. Published in 1792, the piece begins with Wollstonecraft’s argument that the power of reason is what places humans above all other forms of natural life, and this position is further reinforced by virtue and morality, and finally secured with the accumulation of knowledge. So, she believes that the key to happiness lies in the degree of reason, virtue, and knowledge exercised within society. Furthermore, this allows Wollstonecraft to express the notion that women are not naturally inferior to men, but instead this invalid perception is a direct outcome triggered by society’s failure to employ reason and properly educate women. Subsequently, she illustrates the ways in which women’s position in society is obstructed from early on in life, as they are encouraged to care for superficial attributes, surrender themselves to sensibility, and tend to their husband’s every need. Consequently, they are prevented from developing the ability to become autonomous members of society. In addition she expresses her belief that women should be equal in marriage and viewed as companions through life, rather than serve the sole purpose of pleasing their husbands and serving as decorative ornaments in society. Needless to say, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is an influential and highly valuable piece in the history of feminist theory and activism, as it vividly portrays the political and social scene of the 18th century and marks the first step to the emancipation of women.