Study Guide

Dr. Fordyce in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

Dr. Fordyce

Jean-Jacques Rousseau isn't the only writer who Wollstonecraft singles out for criticism in Vindication. She also goes after a dude named Dr. Fordyce, whose writings on women's education have harmed women by spreading and entrenching common stereotypes about them.

As Wollstonecraft writes, "Dr Fordyce's sermons have long made a part of a young woman's library; nay, girls at school are allowed to read them; but I should instantly dismiss them from my pupil's, if I wished to strengthen her understanding" (5.68).

In other words, Wollstonecraft would never allow her daughters to read Dr. Fordyce's writing, because she would want them to develop their intellect. Oooof. Burn, Dr. Fordyce.

It's not surprising that Wollstonecraft dislikes Fordyce's writing. She quotes him at one point saying, "Behold these smiling innocents [women], whom I have graced with my fairest gifts, and committed to your protection; behold them with love and respect; treat them with tenderness and honour" (5.72).

This might sound nice at first, but a closer look shows us that Fordyce basically thinks of women as children who need to be protected by men. There's no way Wollstonecraft would ever get behind this idea: Wollstonecraft's argument is based around the idea that treating women like children reduces their ability to reason. Also, you know, she thinks Dr. Fordyce's writing sucks.