Study Guide

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Marriage

By Mary Wollstonecraft

Marriage

For women of Wollstonecraft's time, marriage was the only future for women, and the only way they could get a taste of the public world. At the same time, it was an institution that completely pushed them into the private world, since it was understood that the husband was always the public face of the family. Now Wollstonecraft doesn't say that women should stop getting married, but she does insist that wives shouldn't be slaves to their husbands in the way that traditional British society expected them to be.

In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman , Wollstonecraft also insists that women should marry out of love for a man's mind and not his appearance. Good thinking, W. Otherwise, these women might doom themselves to bitterness and resentment once their husband grows old. The same goes for men, too, who should choose a wife based on her mind instead of her looks. Notice here how Wollstonecraft constantly shifts focus from a person's gender and outward appearance and places it on their mind.

Questions About Marriage

  1. Why would Wollstonecraft say that an unhappy marriage is often an advantage for a family (at 2.47 in the text)? Use specific evidence from the text to support your point.
  2. Why does the ultimate importance of marriage in a woman's life make women deceptive, according to Wollstonecraft? What could society do to help get rid of this trend?
  3. Why do marriages become unhappy when a wife is too familiar and chummy with other women? Please use specific evidence from the text to support your answer.

Chew on This

In Vindication, Wollstonecraft shows us that for women, marriage is a path to slavery and not happiness.

Vindication shows us that if we rethink marriage as an institution, we can rethink all of society.

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