Her Own Woman: The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft

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9780684810935: Her Own Woman: The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft
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Using sources previously untapped by modern scholars, this compelling portrait of the author of Frankenstein reveals a social rebel and early feminist who was not afraid to flaut the mores of her time.

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Review:

Diane Jacobs's exemplary popular biography makes pioneering 18th-century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97) a vivid character for contemporary readers. Much more sympathetic than Janet Todd was in her book Mary Wollstonecraft: A Revolutionary Life, Jacobs acknowledges Wollstonecraft's extravagantly emotional nature and wearying demands on loved ones, yet roots her shortcomings in frustration provoked by a society blatantly unjust toward women. Mary had to educate herself while her brothers attended the local grammar school; she cared for her dying mother while her farther seduced a younger woman; her sister could escape a bad marriage only by leaving behind a baby. The intelligent, unconventional Wollstonecraft's choice of occupations was limited to governess, paid companion, or schoolteacher, all of which she tried and detested.

No wonder she felt most at home with London radicals fired by the promise of the French Revolution, including publisher Joseph Johnson, who encouraged her early writing and in 1792 issued her most famous work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Jacobs does a nice job of conveying the scandalous impact of Wollstonecraft's then unprecedented insistence on economic and intellectual equality for women, and she evokes with similar immediacy the fervent atmosphere of revolutionary France, where Wollstonecraft fell in love with American Gilbert Imlay and bore his child. Imlay's desertion prompted two suicide attempts, but the perennially depressive Wollstonecraft found solace in England with philosopher William Godwin before dying of childbed fever after giving birth to a daughter, also named Mary, who would later run off with married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. In a narrative notable for its lively prose, dramatic punch, and positive assessment of the tempestuous Wollstonecraft, it's characteristic that Jacobs closes, not with her tragic death, but 19 years later as Mary Shelley began to write Frankenstein and "the revolution continued." --Wendy Smith

About the Author:

Diane Jacobs is the author of Christmas in July: The Life and Art of Preston Sturges, published by the University of California Press. She has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Village Voice. She lives in New York with her daughter.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780806524467: Her Own Woman: The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0806524464 ISBN 13:  9780806524467
Publisher: Citadel, 2003
Softcover

9780349114613: Her Own Woman: The Life of Mary Wollstonecroft

ABACUS, 2001
Softcover

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