Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Biography Books Facts

Wollstonecraft, Mary (1759-1797), English author and feminist, born probably in London. Soon after 1780 she left home to earn her living, running a school for two years with her sisters and subsequently serving for a year as a governess in Ireland. The moderate success of her first novel, Mary, a Fiction (1788), convinced her to settle in London, where she was employed as a reader and translator. She became a member of an intellectual group that included the English poet and artist William Blake, the Anglo-American political philosopher Thomas Paine, the English chemist Joseph Priestley, and the Anglo-Swiss painter and author Henry Fuseli. Her best-known work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), asserts that intellectual companionship is the ideal of marriage and pleads for equality of education and opportunity between the sexes. During the French Revolution Wollstonecraft went to Paris where she fell in love with the American author and adventurer Captain Gilbert Imlay and gave birth to their daughter in 1794. They lived for a while in England, where Imlay subsequently deserted her, and she attempted suicide. In 1797 she married the English political philosopher William Godwin. She died later that year, shortly after the birth of their daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft, who later became the wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley and a writer on her own. Wollstonecraft was also the author of Original Stories from Real Life (1791) and A Vindication of the Rights of Man (1793). Her letters were published in Memoirs of the Author of the Rights of Woman (1798) by William Godwin.