Study Guide

Mary Wollstonecraft Childhood

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Mary Wollstonecraft was born 27 April 1759 in the Spitalfields section of London. She was the second of seven children born to John Edward and Elizabeth Dickson Wollstonecraft. The family was middle-class, but John Wollstonecraft was a poor manager of the little money they had. John Wollstonecraft moved the family frequently around England and Wales in a series of unsuccessful attempts to make it big. Ultimately, they only became poorer with each move.

An intelligent girl, Mary Wollstonecraft saw at an early age what the prospects were like for women of her social class, and she did not like it one bit. Despite her aptitude for learning, only her brother Ned was sent to school. She also saw how her father took his frustration out on her mother. Mary used to sleep in front of her mother's bedroom door to prevent her father from beating her mother during one of his rages. No wonder she announced at the age of fifteen that she was never going to marry.

In 1781, her mother fell ill and Wollstonecraft returned to London to care for her. Elizabeth Wollstonecraft passed away in April 1782. John Wollstonecraft remarried immediately. Mary moved in with Fanny Blood's family, a clan even poorer than her own.

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