Study Guide

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Religion

By Mary Wollstonecraft

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Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman during a time when reason was considered the greatest power a human could have. But people believed that reason was a gift from God, and all arguments for social change had to, in one way or another, say that God was somehow in favor of the change. That's why you'll see all kinds of references to religion in Wollstonecraft's argument for women's rights.

Also, Wollstonecraft understood God to have been incapable to making 51% of the human population without a capacity for rational thought. To make more than half of humanity unreasonable would constitute a major design flaw, and Wollstonecraft wasn't big on the idea of God letting design flaws slide.

Questions About Religion

  1. Do you think that Wollstonecraft buys her own arguments about why God wants men and women to be equal? Why or why not?
  2. How do Wollstonecraft's religious arguments line up with the fact that she thinks reason should be the basis for human judgment? Is there a contradiction there? Why or why not?
  3. What, in Wollstonecraft's mind, gives the best proof for the idea that God wants men and women to be equal?
  4. How does society prevent women from serving God to the best of their ability (according to Wollstonecraft)? Please use specific evidence from the text to support your answers.

Chew on This

In Vindication, Wollstonecraft falls back on religious arguments whenever her reason starts to fail her.

In Vindication, Wollstonecraft uses religious arguments to back up her overall point simply because most of her readers would have been religious.

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