Study Guide

Mary Wollstonecraft Family Troubles

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Family Troubles

In 1783, Wollstonecraft moved in with her sister Eliza and Eliza's husband Meredith Bishop. Eliza had just given birth to a baby and was suffering from post-partum depression. Mary became convinced that Eliza's husband was abusing her. She undertook one of the most radical acts of her life. She convinced Eliza to leave both her husband and her newborn infant. In January 1784, the Wollstonecraft sisters fled Eliza's home. Their shocking decision had tragic consequences. Eliza's baby died in August. Because of the damage to her reputation, Eliza was never able to remarry and spent most of her life impoverished.

The sisters settled in Newington Green, a bohemian community in north London known for its community of intellectuals, radicals and Protestant dissidents. Mary, Eliza, Fanny Blood and a third Wollstonecraft sister, Everina, set up a school for girls. Mary Wollstonecraft became friends with an inspiring community of like-minded intellectuals, including Dr. Richard Price, the minister of the local Unitarian church. She also met Joseph Johnson, who became her close friend and publisher.

Fanny Blood married and moved to Portugal with her new husband. In November 1785, Mary Wollstonecraft sailed to Portugal to assist Fanny during the upcoming birth of her first child. Sadly, both Fanny and her newborn died after complications from the baby's premature birth. A heartbroken Wollstonecraft returned to England, only to find her school mired in severe financial problems. She was forced to close the school the next year. She became a governess to a well-to-do family in Dublin, but she did not get along well with her employer and was soon dismissed.

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