Mary Godwin Wollstonecraft (1759-1797).
Mary Wollstonecraft was born on the twenty-seventh of April in 1759 and was the second of seven children but the first daughter of Edward John Wollstonecraft and Elizabeth Dickson. She had a difficult childhood as her father was an abusive alcoholic and her mother favored and preferred the eldest son. Growing up resenting her eldest brother made them become alienated. This was due in part to Mary's challenge to his inheritance, a part which she claimed for herself. Although this was not a legal binding order, there were some ethical issues at hand. The smaller children grew to depend on Mary and this caused resentment and later alienation among them as well. .
Mary learned first-hand the limits of her gendered social position. As a young woman she attempted all of the respectable employment options for unmarried, middle-class women. She worked as a paid companion in the fashionable resort of Bath, as a governess in an aristocratic family, and as the proprietor of a school. She witnessed the failure of up-to-date education for girls and young women, as well as the powerless position of women in unhappy marriages. Fortunately Mary was able to drift to literature with relative ease.
In 1783, Mary forced her sister Eliza to escape a miserable marriage and helped her to hide from a brutal husband until a legal separation was arranged. This was a forced marriage, she bearing one child which was left behind and in turn made Eliza bitter for the rest of her life. One must admire the strength of the bossy girl who took control over the family, but at the same time struck by her lack of knowledge of the heart. Mary, her sister, and friend Fanny Blood opened a school in a London in 1784, but closed two years later due to financial troubles. .
In the mid-1780's, she met Dr. Richard Price and his circle of Dissenters in Newington Green. The conversations with them introduced her to authors who helped shape her political and social thinking, as well as adding to an important resource for her career change.