A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

In the introduction of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, the author prepares the reader for the rest of the essaty by -


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It's difficult to know what you want here. I looked at the essay, hopefully this helps. It's in her introduction.

" ...and I have sighed when obliged to confess that either Nature has made a great difference between man and man, or that the civilisation which has hitherto taken place in the world has been very partial.....a profound conviction that the neglected education of my fellow-creatures is the grand source of the misery I deplore, and that women, in particular, are rendered weak and wretched by a variety of concurring causes, originating from one hasty conclusion."



It is both intriguing and significant that Mary Wollstonecraft chose to dedicate her work on the rights of women to Charles Maurice Talleyrand-Périgord, a rather infamous man who worked successfully as a diplomat through the French Revolution, the Napoleonic years, and the restoration of the monarchy. Once the bishop of Autun, Talleyrand (as he is most commonly referred) gave up the post because of his political activities and was officially excommunicated by the Catholic Church in 1791. Some historians view him as a traitor to all of the regimes/personages he worked for, although his enterprising, adaptable, and intuitive nature can easily be lauded.

The work to which Wollstonecraft refers to was the Rapport sur L'instruction Publique, fait au nom du Comité de Constitution (1791), a report to the French National Assembly. Wollstonecraft had met Talleyrand when he journeyed to London in February of 1792 as part of the Constituent Assembly attempting to stave off war between Britain and France; she dedicated the second edition of Vindication to him. As her letter explains, she read his treatise on education that suggested women should only receive a domestic education and stay out of political affairs, and had choice words to say on the subject of French women and the flaws in the French constitution regarding the inequality between men and women. In response, Wollstonecraft has much to say.

In the Advertisement Wollstonecraft explains that she initially expected to write three parts, but as she was writing the first part she was frequently inspired to write more on the principles expressed there and eventually just published it alone. Although she states that a second volume will be forthcoming, her papers suggest that she never started a second part.

Wollstonecraft's introduction is a succinct summary of her goals and intent in writing this Vindication of the Rights of Woman. She excoriates the current state of education which, for women, is concerned primarily with finding primary value in their beauty and marriageable characteristics. This does favors for neither men nor women, as ill-educated women may seek illicit outlets for their repression or, perhaps more importantly, become badly equipped to raise their children to be moral, patriotic, and virtuous. Thus, both men and women would profit from female education. There is no benefit to convincing women that their meekness, delicacy of sentiment, softness, and reliance upon physical beauty are anything other than forms of subjugation.

Wollstonecraft addresses a few points that readers might bring against her, demonstrating her keen intellect and awareness of the progressive contents of her treatise. First, she explains that there is no reason to believe that "masculine women" are threatening when the term "masculine" only suggests the highest talents and virtues of mankind. She acknowledges that men are larger and stronger by nature, giving them certain natural advantages, yet the virtues of the mind do not seem to rely on physical prowess or other concerns with the body. Indeed, there is no reason to fear that women will attain so much courage and fortitude that they will not need to depend on men at all; "their apparent inferiority with respect to bodily strength, must render them, in some degree, dependent on men in the various relations of life" (11). Finally, she makes it clear that her text will not be cluttered with superficialities or given an artificial gloss of style. She does not plan to "waste [her] time in rounding periods, or in fabricating the turgid bombast of artificial feelings" (10). The argumentative reason in this treatise will showcase the intellectual heights she believes women can reach without having to rely on their beauty and charms. In this way, the style of the book mirrors its substance.

In general, Wollstonecraft seeks to prove to her readers that women, like she has done, can become thoughtful and educated. Readers should start tracking the quality of her arguments and should recognize how Wollstonecraft demonstrates knowledge of current events and close familiarity with the arguments of the great writers of her time and of earlier ages. Is Wollstonecraft an unusual example of what a woman might achieve, or is she pointing the way for most women to achieve a similar level of educational achievement? Her arguments suggest the latter.