Study Guide

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Chapter 9

By Mary Wollstonecraft

Chapter 9

Of the pernicious effects which arise from the unnatural distinctions established in society

  • In this chapter, Wollstonecraft attacks all the social problems that come from inequality in society and from wealth. For her, people who have a lot of wealth get a lot of respect that they don't really deserve. Only people who have virtue should get respect.
  • Wollstonecraft insists that unless there is more equality in society, there will never be morality. Plus it is impossible to expect virtue from women until they achieve some sort of independence from men.
  • According to Wollstonecraft, wealth tends to make women selfish, especially when they become mothers. Most wealthy mothers just pass their children off to babysitters and don't think about them again. They're too busy counting their jewels.
  • The only way to help women develop as individuals is to give them the means they need to take care of themselves financially. Women must not depend on men for their food and shelter, but must be able to provide it for themselves.
  • How is it, Wollstonecraft asks, that poor mechanics still pay taxes to help maintain the royal palace when they have barely enough to eat on their own?
  • Wollstonecraft makes a pretty bold statement for her time when she insists that women should be allowed to train as doctors and healers of all sorts. They should also be allowed to study politics.
  • In order for women to use their private goodness to help the public, they must be given some sort of public life, either through jobs or public political positions.
  • If men would only take the chains off of women, they would find that women are great friends and partners in life. Women would probably be more affectionate, too, if they were given more independence.

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