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Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)

Shelfmark: (OC) 210 m.460
Credit: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) was born in London. After an unsettled childhood she established a school at Newington Green, where she became acquainted with a number of Dissenters, including Richard Price. From 1786-8 she was a governess to Lord Kingsborough’s children in Ireland. Her Thoughts on the Education of Daughters was published in 1787. Returning from Ireland, she moved to London, where she was befriended by the publisher Joseph Johnson, who introduced her to the leading Radicals of the day, and who published her Vindication of the Rights of Men (1790), and her best-known work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792).

In 1792 Wollstonecraft travelled to Revolutionary France, where she met an American speculator, Gilbert Imlay, with whom she had a daughter, Fanny, in 1794. She returned to London in 1795 and, neglected by Imlay, attempted suicide. She then travelled to Scandinavia on Imlay’s business; her account of her journey was later published as Letters Written during a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark (1796). Imlay's continuing neglect prompted a second suidice attempt in October 1795. In 1796 she became the lover of William Godwin. They married in March the following year, and in August Wollstonecraft gave birth to their daughter Mary, but she died from an infection a few days later.

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