A Persona of Mary Wollstonecraft

Published: 2021-06-25 18:35:03
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During the Enlightenment period, women had minimal rights. As society was rapidly changing and debating what rights men should have, women were often left out of this question. However, during this time period, some women decided to stand up for their rights, and one woman who did that was named Mary Wollstonecraft. Mary Wollstonecraft used Enlightenment values such as rationalism and advancing society in order to advocate for equal education for men and women. She believed that by educating men and women equally, society at large would benefit and improve greatly. Wollstonecraft was influenced by the views of Jean Jacques Rousseau, a prominent Enlightenment thinker. She believed that the individual freedom and equality among men advocated by Rousseau also included women and that breaking the stereotypes surrounding women was the only way for society to truly progress during this time of immense change. Wollstonecraft and Rousseau contradict one another in regards to the Enlightenment values of reason, individual freedom, and equality. Wollstonecraft believed that women were capable of reason and should have equal rights to men concerning education and in general, while Rousseau thought that only men should be given rights and education and that women were not capable of rational thinking.Mary Wollstonecraft incorporated Enlightenment core concepts such as reason, equality and improving society in order to fight for women’s rights in both education and in general. Wollstonecraft had a passion for education and when she was younger, she spent much time in a library. She got a job working for Joseph Johnson, a publisher and bookseller, which opened her up to social circles that discussed politics. She wrote many pieces of writing, sharing her thoughts on women and education in response to other male Enlightenment thinkers. Her most famous work is titled A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Wollstonecraft’s main argument in this book was for women to have the right to get educated. She believed that if women had the right to education, they would get more rights in the future. Many critics of her ideas argued that if women were to be educated, they would not have time to take care of their home and family. Wollstoncraft understood that women had to be in charge of the home, but that women also had the right to be part of society and that these two aspects of a woman’s life could be intertwined.She also believed that just like men have responsibilities in society, so too women do and should have responsibilities in their society.Wollstonecraft thought that in order to create total freedom in society, men and women both have to be equal and free and take active roles in society. She believed that the only way to achieve this total freedom was by having equal education for men and women. In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman., Wollstonecraft writes “contending for the rights of woman, my main argument is built on this simple principle, that if she be not prepared by education to become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of knowledge and virtue; for truth must be common to all, or it will be inefficacious with respect to its influence on general practice. This is the basis for why Wollstonecraft thought women deserved an education. She believed that women needed to share the knowledge with men because otherwise, society could not continue to progress. If women don’t learn new knowledge like men were doing, the influence of this change will not take the same effect as if both men and women were gaining more knowledge. One of Wollstonecraft’s other arguments in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was that reason was something that separated humans from animals and that everyone was capable of reason. She thought that reason was what allows people to gain knowledge, and it was that basis for our rights as humans.Many Enlightenment thinkers of the time agreed with Wollstonecraft that people use reason to become good people and do good actions, however, many did not think that women were included in this. She believed that because of the way that girls in this time period were brought up thinking that when they grow up they will be solely responsible for taking care of the home and to please their husbands, they don’t think about getting an equal education as men. In order to progress in society, she thought that young girls should be taught that they deserve an equal education and the same job opportunities as men. Jean Jacques Rousseau disagreed with Wollstonecraft on many different aspects of Enlightenment values. Although Rousseau believed in individual freedom and equality, women were not included in this equation. While Wollstonecraft thought that women’s education should be equal to men’s, Rousseau argued that women’s education should come second and that their main purpose was to please their husbands. Rousseau also discussed the idea of a social contract between the people of a society in order to create a government, for he believed that having a direct democracy and a government in which the people have a say was the only good government.However, yet again, Rousseau fails to include women in this equation because he believed women due to their incapability of reason should not have a say in their government. Wollstonecraft wrote how she believed that there should be a stable marriage contract between men and women and that they should be equal in this and Rousseau seems to want the same thing in regards to men and government. However, Rousseau excludes women which shows how he is contradicting himself in wanting total equality by leaving out a whole gender. Wollstonecraft argued that if women were educated if would help them become better partners in marriage. Rousseau wrote a book titled Emile which outlined his ideas about equality among men and education. He believed, contrary to Wollstonecraft, that men and women needed to have different educations. He thought that women were weaker and inferior to men. He also thought that the main purpose of women were to be good wives and mothers. One of Wollstonecraft’s main criticisms of Rousseau is he said that women were not capable of reason and therefore could not be citizens and have rights. Wollstonecraft thought that if women were to be educated equally, they would no longer be treated as inferior.Wollstonecraft and Rousseau’s opposing views on the Enlightenment values of reason, individual freedom, and equality show how even though these two individuals were living during the same period, they ended up with different opinions of the key topics under debate. Although Rousseau was a revolutionary philosopher during this time period, he remained stuck in the gender norms and failed to allow those stereotypes to disappear and for society to truly move toward modernization. On the other hand, Wollstonecraft was able to break those boundaries and through her writing she was able to truly be influential and encompass the meaning of the Enlightenment values.

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