Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797)

English social critic, philosopher, and novelist. Born in London to a troubled family with dwindling fortunes, Wollstonecraft had little formal schooling but read widely. She left home early and, with her sisters and her best friend, started a school, which soon closed. By 1787, as she began channeling her ideas into prose, she suffered the devastating losses of both her mother and her best friend. In the years that followed, Wollstonecraft published essays, translations, novels, and a children’s book. A Vindication of the Rights of Men (1790), which supported the republican principles of the French Revolution, was an instant success and established her reputation in literary and political circles. A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), an important early feminist treatise, presents a radical yet tightly reasoned argument for social and educational equality between women and men. See also