A vindication of the rights of woman by

15 January 2011

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In the present state of society, it appears necessary to go back to first principles in search of the most simple truths, and to dispute with some prevailing prejudice every inch of ground.

eBook number 3420 ; Read for A Year of Feminist Classics ; Quotes.

This is one of the earliest books of feminist writing out there. In it Wollstonecraft argues in favour of the rights of women, in favour of educating women, in favour of treating men and women equally. But because it was written so long ago, 1792, a lot of what she has to say sounds very out-dated and obvious to modern readers. Or at least I hope it does. As such it was a good choice to start of the Year of Feminist Classics, as it does a great job at setting the scene. And of showing how far we have come. Although it could be argued that we have a lot further to go.

vindication of the rights of womanTo be totally honest though I found Wollstonecraft’s manner and style of writing quite irritating. She seemed so full of her self, and sure that she was right. Superior to everyone, almost. Of course, I agree with her that women are the equal to men, and deserve the same education and respect. But her dismissing any women but those from the middle classes. The lives of lower class women do not feature here, unless they are maids or servants. In a way I can understand that, she is writing a specific argument and so must limit her topic, nevertheless it does seem overly dismissive. And her attitude to the “savages”! Well, she speaks as a person from that time understood the world I suppose, so I shouldn’t be anachronistic and criticize her for that. Even if it did grate.

The major issue I had with the book was actually Wollstonecraft’s attitude towards other women. They are all foolish, or silly. Even those well respected by others. They use their “low cunning” to enslave men because they have not been educated to use reason for the greater good.

But that is unfair of me. She says at many times that it is because of how women are educated, or the lack of an education they receive that women act this way. And this is a historical document much more than a modern sociological or political essay.

Other reviews: Things mean a lot ; Iris on books ; It was evening all afternoon ; Still life with books ; A room of one’s own.

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6 Responses

  1. Nymeth says:

    As someone was telling me in a comment recently, it will be very interesting to see how the subject of harshness towards other women comes up in the other books we read, and how it was dealt with over time.
    Nymeth´s last blog post ..The Sunday Salon – Books- Books- Books!

    • Fence says:

      Very much so. I wonder is it partly a desire to be treated as not just an apologist for women. If she is this hard on women then maybe her ideas make sense to men too. Or is it frustration with women who go along with the status quo and seem to make it worse for those trying to change things.

  2. Caroline says:

    The aspect of her being harsh on other women is interesting and your saying that it is more a historical document. It sounds dated and I am thankful to all of you who read and to introduce it to us. I was always interested in the book but didn’t want to read it. I’m sure if you study gender studies it is still recommended reading, you need to know the sources. I think I would enjoy reading a biography of her.
    Caroline´s last blog post ..Takashi Atoda- The Square Persimmon and Other Stories 1991 Magical Japanese Short Stories

  3. Tom Morgan says:

    This was a really interesting post, thanks for sharing! It helped me alot with my current work on my University Journalism course.

    I’ve been studying Wollstonecraft recently and would be grateful if you could have a quick look at my thoughts on her ‘Vindication of..’ passage.


    Thanks again,
    Tom Morgan´s last blog post ..Tuesday Blogging Frenzy

  1. 15 January 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bosca, Fence. Fence said: New blog post: A vindication of the ri… http://www.susanhatedliterature.net/2011/01/a-vindication-of-the-rights-of-woman/ #books #feminism […]