Study Guide

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Introduction

By Mary Wollstonecraft

Introduction

Introduction

  • Wollstonecraft begins Vindication by saying that she's been feeling depressed lately. After looking at the history of humanity, she has decided that men and women are either very different or history has been extremely unfair to women.
  • In the end, she decides that the lack of good education for women is the biggest cause of misery in the world.
  • For the most part, Wollstonecraft believes that women's poor education teaches them to be superficial and ignorant, which only makes life more miserable for their future husbands and children.
  • Wollstonecraft admits that it looks as though men are physically stronger than women. But she insists that in a modern civilization, physical strength shouldn't count for much.
  • Women should therefore be treated just as well as men because they have just as much intelligence.
  • She already knows that men will criticize her argument by saying that giving women the same education as men will make them too "manly." Wollstonecraft argues that reason and logic don't favor one gender over the other, though.
  • Wollstonecraft warns her female readers that she's going to speak to them directly and rationally, which might offend some women who are used to being addressed with all kinds of silly politeness.
  • Wollstonecraft admits that women's education has become a more widely discussed topic in her time. But she's disappointed that this education always focuses on making women as pleasing as possible to men instead of developing their rational minds.
  • It is clear to Wollstonecraft that women have been unnaturally stunted in their development by a society that tries to keep them as weak and ignorant as possible. In the end, she's confident that rational argument will prove that it's in everyone's interest for women to receive better education.

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