Study Guide

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Chapter 13

By Mary Wollstonecraft

Chapter 13

Some instances of the folly which the ignorance of women generates; with concluding reflections on the moral improvement that a revolution in female manners may naturally be expected to produce

  • Wollstonecraft decides that she wants to close Vindication with a discussion of some of the faults that are most common to women. As you can imagine, she attributes most of these faults to a lack of education.
  • Here, Wollstonecraft directly accuses her women readers of being the cause of their own oppression, because so many of them try to gain an advantage in life by acting as "ladylike" as possible. But these women don't realize that their actions reflect on their entire gender and have an impact outside their personal lives.
  • She especially goes after women who like to visit quack doctors who use magnets and crazy things to cure diseases. Wollstonecraft thinks these quacks should all be arrested, and she blames gullible, uneducated women for making quackery such a thriving industry in England.
  • Another common fault that Wollstonecraft sees with women is that their ideas about life are way too influenced by the romance novels they read. Women grow up thinking that Prince Charming will ride up on his horse and sweep them away. To be fair, Wollstonecraft thinks that some reading (even of romance novels) is better than no reading at all. But she thinks there are better things women could be putting their minds to.
  • The best way for people to deal with novels is to point out (for their daughters) all of the things in a novel that are silly or nonsensical. This might seem kind of harsh, but Wollstonecraft is more interested in producing good citizens than women who think that life is one big romance.
  • One of the things that Wollstonecraft dislikes most about women is how judgmental they are toward other women, especially when it comes to appearances.
  • Society tends to make a big deal out of how compassionate women are compared to men. But this compassion usually stems from ignorance, and women are often compassionate toward people who don't deserve it. They're just as likely to feel compassion for a murderer as for a poor person because they haven't got the education to know any better.
  • On top of all the other faults, women are often too harsh with their servants, especially in front of their own children. What kind of message does it teach your child when you're mean to those who are worse off than you?
  • In closing, Wollstonecraft says that she has no interest in excusing the faults of women. She simply thinks that these faults wouldn't be so bad if women were given a better education and a more equal place in society.

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