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Mary Wollstonecraft

Born: 27 April 1759

Died: 10 September 1797

Nationality: United Kingdom

Feminist writer and intellectual Mary Wollstonecraft was born in London. Brought up by an abusive father, she left home and dedicated herself to a life of writing. In 1784, Mary, her sister Eliza and her best friend Fanny, established a school in Newington Green. From her teaching experience, Wollstonecraft wrote the pamphlet Thoughts on the Education of Daughters (1787). While working as a translator to Joseph Johnson, a publisher of radical texts, she published her most famous work A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in which she pressed for educational reforms. In the work, she clearly abhors prevailing notions that women are helpless adornments of a household. Instead, she states that society breeds "gentle domestic brutes” and that a confined existence makes women frustrated and transforms them into tyrants over their children and servants. The key, she claimed, is educational reform, giving women access to the same educational opportunities as men.

The ideas in her books were truly revolutionary at the time and caused tremendous controversy. Wollstonecraft also wrote Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman, which asserted that women had strong sexual desires and that it was degrading and immoral to pretend otherwise.

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