Female Writers Through History: Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft was an English writer, novelist, philosopher, feminist, and advocate for women’s rights and education from 1759-1797. For a long time, her rejection of typical relationships and independence overshadowed her legacy as a writer, as she did not conform to the societal norms of a marriage of the time. Her only child, Mary Shelley, would become the author of Frankenstein.  

Wollstonecraft was raised in a family where her father was abusive to her mother and sisters. The women could not leave as the marriage laws would make it so that Wollstonecraft's mother could not have custody of her daughters, and the women’s lack of education prevented them from being able to find jobs to support themselves. Wollstonecraft eventually made two important female friendships that altered her life, Jane Arden and Frances (Fanny) Blood. Jane Arden was the one who introduced Wollstonecraft to philosophy, and Frances Blood’s death became the inspiration of Wollstonecraft’s first novel, Mary: A Fiction. These two women played an important role in Wollstonecraft’s life, inspiring her to write about the importance of female friendships in her novels. 

Her writings at the time were radical, as she wrote that women were not inferior to men and that many believed this only because women rarely received an education. She argued that women should not be viewed as only wives or the property of their husbands and fathers, rather that women deserved the same rights as men. In her novels, she wrote about women who were trapped in loveless, economic marriages, and how they defied society’s norms by seeking relationships outside the marriage to feel fulfilled. Her novels placed a strong emphasis on the importance of female friendships and how female friendships could extend beyond social classes.


"I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves."

~ Mary Wollstonecraft