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Timeline

Apr 27, 1759

Mary Wollstonecraft Born

Mary Wollstonecraft is born in the Spitalfields neighborhood of London. She is the second of seven children of John Edward and Elizabeth Dickson Wollstonecraft.

1774

Moves to Hoxton

After a series of moves around England as John Edward looks unsuccessfully for work, the Wollstonecrafts move to Hoxton, a London suburb. Mary Wollstonecraft befriends Mr. and Mrs. Clare, who become a second family to her and encourage her education.

1775

Meets Fanny Blood

Wollstonecraft meets Fanny Blood, a young woman her age who becomes her best friend.

1776

Moves to Wales

The Wollstonecrafts move to Wales.

1777

Back to London

The Wollstonecrafts leave Wales and move to the Walworth suburb of London.

1778

Gets Her First Job

Wollstonecraft moves to Bath to take a position as a companion to an elderly woman named Sarah Dawson. She and her ornery elderly client don't get along well.

1781

Moves Back to London

Late in the year, Wollstonecraft moves back to London to care for her ailing mother.

Apr 19, 1782

Mother Dies

Wollstonecraft's mother Elizabeth dies. Her father remarries immediately, and Wollstonecraft moves in with the family of Fanny Blood, her best friend.

1783

Moves in With Sister

In the winter, Wollstonecraft moves in with her sister Eliza, who has just given birth to a baby. Wollstonecraft notices that her sister is depressed and believes she is suffering at the hands of her husband, Meredith Bishop.

Jan 1784

Helps Eliza Flee

Wollstonecraft takes her sister away from her unhappy marriage, leaving the baby behind. The baby dies in August. Because of the damage to her reputation, Eliza is unable to re-marry and spends the rest of her life impoverished.

1784

Opens School

Fanny Blood, Eliza and Mary Wollstonecraft start a school for girls in Newington Green. Everina Wollstonecraft joins them soon after.

Nov 29, 1785

Fanny Blood Dies

Fanny Blood marries Hugh Skeys, becomes pregnant and sails to Portugal with him. Wollstonecraft accompanies her. Fanny Blood dies after complications from premature labor while she and Wollstonecraft are in Portugal. Her infant dies as well.

Dec 1785

Closes School

Wollstonecraft returns to London and finds that her school has encountered massive financial problems in her absence. She is forced to close it the following year.

1786

Thoughts on the Education of Daughters

Inspired by her experiences with her school, Wollstonecraft pens the feminist tract Thoughts on the Education of Daughters, a polemic about women's education. She takes a job as governess to the Kingsborough family to support herself.

1788

Publishes Novel

Wollstonecraft publishes her first and only novel, Mary, A Fiction. She also publishes a children's book entitled Original Stories from Real Life.

1789

French Revolution

The French Revolution begins, inspiring Wollstonecraft and other English intellectuals. She publishes The Female Reader under a male pseudonym.

Dec 18, 1790

A Vindication of the Rights of Man

Wollstonecraft pens a scathing rebuttal to conservative Edmund Burke's anti-revolution treatise Reflections on the Revolution in France. A Vindication of the Rights of Man brings Wollstonecraft her first real attention as a writer.

1791

Meets William Godwin

Mary Wollstonecraft meets political philosopher William Godwin at a dinner party. The fiercely intelligent, opinionated pair get into an argument and leave irritated with each other. "The interview was not fortunate,"36 Godwin recalls later.

1792

A Vindication of the Rights of Women

Wollstonecraft publishes her most famous work, a manifesto arguing for greater equality between men and women. It is met with positive reviews, though some male readers are shocked.

Dec 1792

Settles in Paris

Inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution, Wollstonecraft moves to Paris.

Apr 1793

Begins Relationship

Wollstonecraft starts an affair with the American adventurer and entrepreneur Gilbert Imlay. They keep the relationship secret for first four months, then go public. The couple moves in together in Paris and plans a move to America. Though they do not marry, Imlay registers Wollstonecraft as his wife to protect her from anti-English sentiment in France.

May 1794

Gives Birth to Daughter

Wollstonecraft gives birth to Fanny Imlay, her daughter with Gilbert. Imlay soon begins withdrawing from their relationship and moves back to London. Wollstonecraft publishes a political tract, An Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution.

May 1795

First Suicide Attempt

Distraught over Imlay's rejection of her, Wollstonecraft unsuccessfully attempts suicide in London.

Oct 1795

Second Suicide Attempt

Wollstonecraft attempts suicide a second time by throwing herself in the Thames River. She leaps from London's Putney Bridge, but does not sink.

Mar 1796

Finally Dumps Imlay

Wollstonecraft cuts off contact with Gilbert Imlay for good. She publishes Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, a travelogue of her voyage to Scandinavia the previous year.

Apr 1796

Re-Meets Godwin

Wollstonecraft and William Godwin meet once again, this time with happier results. They begin a romantic relationship that summer. The pair move in together and live as a couple.

Mar 29, 1797

Marriage

A pregnant Mary Wollstonecraft marries William Godwin at London's St. Pancras Church.

Aug 30, 1797

Mary Shelley Born

Wollstonecraft gives birth to Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, the couple's only child. Mary Godwin grows up to marry poet Percy Shelley. She writes the novel Frankenstein under her married name, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

Sep 10, 1797

Mary Wollstonecraft Dies

Mary Wollstonecraft dies as a result of complications from childbirth.

1798

Memoir Published

William Godwin publishes several posthumous pieces of his wife's writing. He also publishes her biography, Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women. His frank portrayal of Wollstonecraft's unconventional lifestyle posthumously destroys her reputation.

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