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A Vindication of the Rights of Men & A Vindication of the Rights of Woman & An Historical and Moral View of the French Revolution

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Author: Mary Wollstonecraft

Published: September 23rd 2004 by Oxford University Press (first published January 1st 1993)

Format: Paperback , Oxford World’s Classics , 464 pages

Isbn: 9780192836526

Language: English


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This volume brings together the major political writings of Mary Wollstonecraft in the order in which they appeared in the revolutionary 1790s. It traces her passionate and indignant response to the excitement of the early days of the French Revolution and then her uneasiness at its later bloody phase. It reveals her developing understanding of women's involvement in the p This volume brings together the major political writings of Mary Wollstonecraft in the order in which they appeared in the revolutionary 1790s. It traces her passionate and indignant response to the excitement of the early days of the French Revolution and then her uneasiness at its later bloody phase. It reveals her developing understanding of women's involvement in the political and social life of the nation and her growing awareness of the relationship between politics and economics and between political institutions and the individual. In personal terms, the works show her struggling with a belief in the perfectibility of human nature through rational education, a doctrine that became weaker under the onslaught of her own miserable experience and the revolutionary massacres. Janet Todd's introduction illuminates the progress of Wollstonecraft's thought, showing that a reading of all three works allows her to emerge as a more substantial political writer than a study of The Rights of Woman alone can reveal.

30 review for A Vindication of the Rights of Men & A Vindication of the Rights of Woman & An Historical and Moral View of the French Revolution

  1. 5 out of 5

    E. G.

    Introduction Note on the Texts Select Bibliography A Chronology of Mary Wollstonecraft --A Vindication of the Rights of Men --A Vindication of the Rights of Woman --An Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution [Abridged] Explanatory Notes

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ellie Kidger

    I've officially fallen in love with Wollstonecraft. Her style of essay writing is biting and to the point, whilst using 18th century modes of writing to her advantage. Rights of Men is basically one big take down of Edmund Burke, whilst Rights of Woman tears Jean Jacques Rousseau and other philosophers of the period a new one. Meanwhile, A Historical and Moral View is analytic and more like a modern essay in its style and language. One thing I love in particular is how Wollstonecraft looks at th I've officially fallen in love with Wollstonecraft. Her style of essay writing is biting and to the point, whilst using 18th century modes of writing to her advantage. Rights of Men is basically one big take down of Edmund Burke, whilst Rights of Woman tears Jean Jacques Rousseau and other philosophers of the period a new one. Meanwhile, A Historical and Moral View is analytic and more like a modern essay in its style and language. One thing I love in particular is how Wollstonecraft looks at the bigger picture for everything she discusses, and acknowledges flaws and problems in a way that doesn't detract from her arguments.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Crito

    I maintain that if these results can be achieved, the state of affairs in our corner of Greece, where men and women do not have a common purpose and do not throw all their energies into the same activities, is absolutely stupid. Almost every state, under present conditions, is only half a state, and develops only half its potentialities, whereas with the same cost and effort, it could double its achievement. Yet what a staggering blunder for a legislator to make! Laws VII, Plato It's worth invokin I maintain that if these results can be achieved, the state of affairs in our corner of Greece, where men and women do not have a common purpose and do not throw all their energies into the same activities, is absolutely stupid. Almost every state, under present conditions, is only half a state, and develops only half its potentialities, whereas with the same cost and effort, it could double its achievement. Yet what a staggering blunder for a legislator to make! Laws VII, Plato It's worth invoking Plato in order to talk about Wollstonecraft because her argument in the main work is a species of the one he took contra Aristophanes, and she certainly had the education to have known. She would agree with the near polemic tone, and more importantly with the idea that the subjection of women is to the detriment of nearly everyone. But while Plato wanted to say it's because women are inherently weak and frivolous that it's especially important that they get the right education, Wollstonecraft counters that it's a society that infantilizes its women and keeps them from receiving a proper education that would produce a "frivolous" woman in the first place. And further, a male society which values women for only the most superficial reasons, that is, teaching men to value superficiality, is a mar on the men as well. The work is a piece by piece elaboration on this theme in different areas. The crux of the argument seems to be that lack of education is the breeding ground of vice, thus the proliferation of education equally provided to the sexes is to the benefit of everyone's virtue, and that what were seen as follies of women would in hindsight be seen to be just unwarranted impositions against the development of their virtue. That's the step I was most interested in reading this, and I was disappointed to see this itself was never elaborated on. It is especially telling that Wollstonecraft never elaborates on what her notion of virtue is. It may be subject to a similar view of the ancients, if not for the fact that she also in many places seems to conflate morality with virtue, at one point arguing that women seeing each other naked would be a detriment to their virtue, when this is more a matter of the prudish British morals. And if this were an ancient holdover sense of the term, she would have to contend with Aristotle's separating theoretical/scientific knowledge and practical wisdom; the latter part concerns that which is actionable, and thus that which governs virtue, but isn't teachable because it is exactly that skill by which a person knows exactly what is specific to themselves in acting well. Virtue has tutors, but habituation is only enforced in schooling by throwing you into situations, rather than anything specific to what's being taught. And even then, in her Vindication Wollstonecraft doesn't address the several skeptical arguments which were being advanced by her contemporaries which threw serious doubt both on virtue and knowledge as a means of getting there. That concerns Burke and Rousseau, which is a good way to transition to the other works bookending her more famous one. The first Vindication is a near direct response to Burke's Reflections on The Revolution in France, and while it's a nice followup if you have read it, I'm not sure if it's worth it for someone who hasn't read Burke. It is necessary to read it while noting both her valid remarks, and the ones which gloss over the core of Burke's argument. A good example is the discussion of the house of commons. Wollstonecraft criticizes the irresponsibility of a ruling body which has no recourse to virtue, while Burke was first to admit that they're a bunch of useless loafers, and in fact he banks severely on it. It is a proper counterweight to have a class who will dig their heels in at any slight disturbance so as to keep any drastic measures from commencing. One would question the worth of intentional gridlock, and Burke is at the disadvantage of banking on a group whose power is soon to be on the decline. And so Wollstonecraft goes on, somewhat fallaciously, to say nearly every great change is that of great disturbance, so digging the heels in is a vain gesture. Burke is not necessarily opposed to large changes, he gives much applause to the Revolution of 1688 which he argued made a drastic emergency change to Britain's constitution while draping it in the veil of cultural and historical continuity. He wrote his letter to oppose the notion of importing France's revolution to England, a climate which would make no sense. In this Burke shares a notion of Rousseau's, that of a culture having what R terms natural morality; that is, the set of arbitrary given assumptions which have arisen particular to one culture. One example of such an assumption is how in America the mere political provision of freedom of speech has become an assumed value. And to Burke's credit, this is indeed something which will only change slowly over time in a proper context. It's however Rousseau's point that the proliferation of the arts and sciences have sown a rupture of self awareness about the arbitrariness of our values. This gives Wollstonecraft the further problem of whether education might corrupt more than actually proliferate virtue. And indeed Wollstonecraft is a great reader of Rousseau, and seems to have adopted this line in her View of the French Revolution. She retains her view that the Bourgeoisie of France were too morally bankrupt, further including the vain capricious social function of the arts and sciences among them, practically right out of Rousseau. So it's not quite a 180 from her positions in the first vindication, but she's clearly shaken by the Terror. She ultimately concludes it is better that oppression be opposed rather than enabled, however she is far more sensitive this time to the idea of natural morality, and what happens in a society which sees its assumptions dissolve around it. And ultimately she returns to Burke's position on the strength of England's constitution. She does offer a greater morsel on virtuous education on this work, which is a neigh Confucian take which treats education in manner and plain education together, where one or the other would be incomplete on its own to foster virtue. So these three texts together make an interesting arc (although the last text, being more a historical commentary, is severely abridged), though the Vindication of the Rights of Women is the clear centerpiece and stands on its own. It is radical for its time certainly, which is all the more ballsy of her to write in a sharp, florid, rhetorical tone. It's rather unfair of her to criticize Burke's sentimental flourishes while doing the same herself, but it's intricate prose nonetheless. It's however not that radical: she is after all arguing for the way women can be better wives to their husbands. But it's still a noble endeavor on her part to see her responsibility be the promotion of self development alongside virtue in a time where this found its best expression in Germans such as Goethe. Solid Recommendation.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    First off, a disclaimer that I did not read the third text in this edition, actually an excerpt from An Historical and Moral View of the French Revolution. I wanted to give Wollstonecraft’s two Vindications a joint rating, though, in order to avoid subtracting a star from the later, more famous text – because one may as well sooner read A Vindication of the Rights of Men! Honestly, it’s Vindication of Woman distilled to its premises, argued less tediously, and engaged with an effective distribut First off, a disclaimer that I did not read the third text in this edition, actually an excerpt from An Historical and Moral View of the French Revolution. I wanted to give Wollstonecraft’s two Vindications a joint rating, though, in order to avoid subtracting a star from the later, more famous text – because one may as well sooner read A Vindication of the Rights of Men! Honestly, it’s Vindication of Woman distilled to its premises, argued less tediously, and engaged with an effective distribution of topics – more quickly read and better digested. In fact, I would have said (and not lightly) that an anthologized portion of Vindication of Woman would do for the whole, since I really hate to imagine what level of redundancy Wollstonecraft might have realized in her projected second volume! This is certainly a text overshadowed by its reputation – and how many of its latter-day feminist fans even know about Rights of Men (whose non-gendered argument, it must be said, Wollstonecraft followed with Rights of Woman)? Acknowledge Wollstonecraft’s progress, by means of an Enlightened adherence to “Reason,” from equality in civil terms to moral virtue on religious grounds? Admit that Wollstonecraft’s notorious proto-feminism promotes women as “more observant daughters, more affectionate sisters, more faithful wives, more reasonable mothers”? Rather than perpetuate the ongoing feminist appropriation of Wollstonecraft encouraged by, let’s say, selective reading practices, I guess I’d suggest reading that anthology closely, and maybe looking at just one more, for an appreciation of the truly insightful, courageous, impressive thinking Wollstonecraft develops more efficiently in her earlier, shorter Vindication.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Polly

    I’ll confess that I only read the two Vindications in this edition as part of research for a university essay. Some of the prose is a little tough to read but that may be a symptom of the time she wrote in as much as anything. Some of these arguments are utterly timeless, her advocation for a level playing field for both sexes upon which they can develop morality is something that resonates even today. A genuine legend of her time and one of the founding mothers of the feminist movement.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Finished: 07.09.2018 Genre: novel Rating: C+ #ccbookreviews Conclusion: Classic....but with some reservations. Review Finished: 07.09.2018 Genre: novel Rating: C+ #ccbookreviews Conclusion: Classic....but with some reservations. Review

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tim Rideout

    'This is the very point I aim at. I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.' 'A Vindication of the Rights of Woman' was published in 1792. It is impossible for me to review this work in any traditional sense. Yes, there are contradictions in some of Wollstonecraft's arguments. Yes, the essay is discursive and meandering at times. None of that matters, compared with the ground breaking nature of Wollstonecraft's fundamental proposition, that women and men are independ 'This is the very point I aim at. I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.' 'A Vindication of the Rights of Woman' was published in 1792. It is impossible for me to review this work in any traditional sense. Yes, there are contradictions in some of Wollstonecraft's arguments. Yes, the essay is discursive and meandering at times. None of that matters, compared with the ground breaking nature of Wollstonecraft's fundamental proposition, that women and men are independently equal and should be educated and treated as such. Some 226 years later, despite the progress that has been made, we continue to wait for the day when Wollstonecraft's vision is truly realized. There is still much to do. 'Let woman share the rights and she will emulate the virtues of man; for she must grow more perfect when emancipated, or justify the authority that chains such a weak being to her duty.'

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rose Bouchard

    Mary Wollstonecraft was a revolutionary for her time. Her work is not only sparking questions and changing the way we look at feminism but it's also a great period piece on the way women would act during the Enlightenment. This book is a must-read for any young feminist trying to understand where the movement came from and why it's still relevant today. Though the language was at times complicated to grasp, it was overall, well explained and the surrounding sentences made the whole book come tog Mary Wollstonecraft was a revolutionary for her time. Her work is not only sparking questions and changing the way we look at feminism but it's also a great period piece on the way women would act during the Enlightenment. This book is a must-read for any young feminist trying to understand where the movement came from and why it's still relevant today. Though the language was at times complicated to grasp, it was overall, well explained and the surrounding sentences made the whole book come together.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Gareth

    An enlightening insight into the perspectives of a late 18th Century middle class female thinker. There is much here that could be seen to inspire the generations to come, and to stand up for the authority of reason ahead of tradition. At the same time there is an intriguing tension between many views that might be considered the norm today, and some that feel very much of their era in their affirmation of a stratified perspective of how the sexes relate to each other. What frustrates about the An enlightening insight into the perspectives of a late 18th Century middle class female thinker. There is much here that could be seen to inspire the generations to come, and to stand up for the authority of reason ahead of tradition. At the same time there is an intriguing tension between many views that might be considered the norm today, and some that feel very much of their era in their affirmation of a stratified perspective of how the sexes relate to each other. What frustrates about the work is that at time digression and embellishment sometimes make it a more difficult read than it could have been. Having said this it is till well worth the effort and provides a great example of how forward thinkers may in the future be judged for the dissonance in their work, rather than recognised for how their ground-breaking ideas formed our world, simply because we already assume and so don't notice much of what they advocate for.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Devin

    After reading these three works from the late 1700s, I have to say, they’re still relevant. They’re depressingly relevant in fact, because many of the issues she dealt with remain intractable. It’s also very instructive to see how she approached the topic from her time period and perspective. If you’re interested in feminism or justice for mankind, this book will be one you eventually come across. It deals with a very interesting historical time period, and for readers today the writing is still After reading these three works from the late 1700s, I have to say, they’re still relevant. They’re depressingly relevant in fact, because many of the issues she dealt with remain intractable. It’s also very instructive to see how she approached the topic from her time period and perspective. If you’re interested in feminism or justice for mankind, this book will be one you eventually come across. It deals with a very interesting historical time period, and for readers today the writing is still sharp and direct.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie G.

    I read this for the first time when I was 19 and it fundamentally shaped the way I looked at history and feminist theory. Late reads might not have yielded anything so revolutionary, but still informed my beliefs. Radical in the best ways.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Meriyou

    Very interesting, but quite rambling.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    I had to read this for my 18th century literature class. It had interesting points, but overall not the most engaging read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Brand

    Read "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" for EN4363: Romantic Writing and Women. I was pleasantly surprised by what an engaging and enlightening read this was when I began this book. I expected it to be the sort of text I could appreciate historically, but not entirely enjoy, but for the most part I genuinely enjoyed reading this book. I did find that it got bogged down in repetitions at times, but I know this is because Wollstonecraft had very little time to edit this text before it went to Read "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" for EN4363: Romantic Writing and Women. I was pleasantly surprised by what an engaging and enlightening read this was when I began this book. I expected it to be the sort of text I could appreciate historically, but not entirely enjoy, but for the most part I genuinely enjoyed reading this book. I did find that it got bogged down in repetitions at times, but I know this is because Wollstonecraft had very little time to edit this text before it went to print. Given more time, it could have been a far better structured book that conveyed the same message without needing to repeat the same facts and ideas over and over. Ultimately my biggest issue with this book was Wollstonecraft's bizarre ideas on marriage, namely the fact that passion eventually disappeared, leaving the couple with nothing but friendship and their children to unite them. While I do believe that friendship is essential to a good marriage, I wondered what she had experienced to make her think that passionate love could never be sustained throughout a marriage. She also seemed to suggest that once a couple had children, they should devote themselves entirely to them, and that a husband who doted more on his wife than his children was wrong. Again, I don't think a husband should treat his child like an infant or subordinate, but I do believe that the husband-wife relationship should take precedence over the parent-child one because one is always a husband or wife, but children will eventually grow up and leave home. These are the sorts of issues that 20th and 21st century feminists have particularly struggled with in this text. In a way, I was relieved that I found flaws in Wollstonecraft's ideas, because this meant she wasn't entirely ahead of her times. Like many writers, Wollstonecraft had her flaws and it's clear that elements of her personal relationships have held her back from truly exploring what makes a good marriage. But when it comes to the reasons why women are subordinated and struggle, I think she's spot on. Likewise, her thoughts on education left little to be improved on. Overall, a fascinating read, and one I'm glad to have encountered in my time at university. Flawed but enlightening. 4*

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bellish

    I feel really bad DNFing this but I am not sure what more I can get out of it. Apparently Wollstonecraft wrote this in a hurry, and it shows. She sets out most of her points in the introduction and then goes around and around and around making them over and over again. The style is slow going, but that's not why I stopped. I feel like I have got the message, and I can't bring myself to plough slowly through the rest. A Vindication of the Rights of Women is obviously a very important book, and it I feel really bad DNFing this but I am not sure what more I can get out of it. Apparently Wollstonecraft wrote this in a hurry, and it shows. She sets out most of her points in the introduction and then goes around and around and around making them over and over again. The style is slow going, but that's not why I stopped. I feel like I have got the message, and I can't bring myself to plough slowly through the rest. A Vindication of the Rights of Women is obviously a very important book, and it is right that Wollstonecraft has been given a great deal of credit for it down the years. She is responding directly to immediately contemporary and slightly earlier writers, very much throwing herself into the fray. It's a fascinating period in European history, and kudos to her for bringing women to the forefront of it. It is obviously of its time in many ways. It won't go so far as to say that men and women can be intellectual equals, and its appeals for the education of women as presented as to the benefit of men (appropriately, as it is men who have the power to change things). Also, arguments that start from the premise "given that God also gave women a soul" and argue logically from there sort of fall at the first hurdle for me, although I can appreciate the ingenuity of her position. One for academic study, I think. Casual readers might want to pick up one of the various heavily abridged versions that are available.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ruchi Chaube

    I picked up this piece taking it as a pasttime to trifle myself with one of those mediaval sagas full of womenly melodrama. But to what i found instead is must to be told! This book was written in the 18th century, the author Mary Wollstonecraft has raised some of the issues which have staggered the position of women in the society then and to my surprise have not changed much till date! The author has a viewpoint on how the social grooming play a part on women's sufferings, and to the author it I picked up this piece taking it as a pasttime to trifle myself with one of those mediaval sagas full of womenly melodrama. But to what i found instead is must to be told! This book was written in the 18th century, the author Mary Wollstonecraft has raised some of the issues which have staggered the position of women in the society then and to my surprise have not changed much till date! The author has a viewpoint on how the social grooming play a part on women's sufferings, and to the author it is the woman herself who has to be blammed. Contemporary feminine writers encounter the same point when they write about womanly affairs but striking is that why it has not hit hard enough to make a real change till now. Maybe seeing from the past might lay some insight on why and how things go wrong. It is a short book written in the form of essays and sure to be considered.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Annemarie Donahue

    Excellently written book full of passion. While Wollstonecraft was regarded as a more enthusiastic writer and less of a valid political critic it is evident that her apt view and reasoning were a valueable commodity to her throughout the French Revolution (as a foreign observer) and during the political upheaval of Britian. Her thoughts, views and blatant attacks on Ed. Burke were valued, highly regarded and poignant. I would recommend this book to anyone. Warning: Her warmness to the French revo Excellently written book full of passion. While Wollstonecraft was regarded as a more enthusiastic writer and less of a valid political critic it is evident that her apt view and reasoning were a valueable commodity to her throughout the French Revolution (as a foreign observer) and during the political upheaval of Britian. Her thoughts, views and blatant attacks on Ed. Burke were valued, highly regarded and poignant. I would recommend this book to anyone. Warning: Her warmness to the French revolution cools quickly after her trip in 1792 during the Terror as she sees that the populace have become ruled by passion and bloodlust. She is dissappointed to see that this glorious revolution was an all-boys club with no intention of educating or elevating women and would soon become just as corrupt (if not more so) than the regime it replaced.

  18. 4 out of 5

    yoli

    This was interesting, we did not read all of it, I'd say about 2/3 and Wollstonecraft's put herself in an interesting dilemma: how do you go about convincing men that women's educations and lives must be enriched because at present they are foolish, useless things--without undermining your own argument because you ARE a woman? Great historical text, not as much fun to read. I'd recommend listening to it (try Librivox.org) only because I have yet to actually physically look at the text, but know t This was interesting, we did not read all of it, I'd say about 2/3 and Wollstonecraft's put herself in an interesting dilemma: how do you go about convincing men that women's educations and lives must be enriched because at present they are foolish, useless things--without undermining your own argument because you ARE a woman? Great historical text, not as much fun to read. I'd recommend listening to it (try Librivox.org) only because I have yet to actually physically look at the text, but know that doing so would cause my head to spin. It's in that high-minded political language that few can understand.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This is a book about why women will never succeed behaving like women. It was written in the 1800's - I think (look it up because I don't remember) and, when I read it, it blew my mind. To me, it seems that not much has changed in what holds women back from succeeding in society and being made equal citizens - even though Wollstonecraft was writing in a society in which women were not allowed to vote, among other things.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Abrandon

    terrific, thoughtful, persuasive, assertive treatise with an especial retort to the stodgy conservatism of landed aristocracy(Edmund Burke) as compared with the political ambition and motivation to succeed of the working class and of the political consciousness of the middle class from the era of the French Revolution.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Terri

    The mother of feminism.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cameron

    I actually got to read, touch, flip through a first edition of this work while I was doing some research for a former professor of mine (bless her). It was one of the top 10 moments of my life.

  23. 5 out of 5

    86

    If you haven't read A Vindication on the Rights of Woman yet be sure to get a full version of the text! Many incomplete versions exist and you'll only be disappointed.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    Amazing. Mary Wollstonecraft is my goddess. Read this and enrich your life.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Wollstonecraft should have left the writing to her daughter -- her writing style embodies all of what I hate from Mary Shelley, but without the imagination that I give M.S. credit for.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Russell

    The victory's we win are not measured in the time it took.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rachael

    Loved it, one of my favorite books

  28. 4 out of 5

    Robbe

    Only read A Vindication of the Rights of Woman for now.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I added this one for the Rights of Man treatise.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Deirdre

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