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Mary Wollstonecraft

            Mary Wollstonecraft is recognized as being the first modern feminist. Wollstonecraft asserted the innate rights of all mankind, whom she thought victims of a society that assigned people their roles, comforts, and satisfactions according to the false distinctions of class, age, and gender. Feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 - 1797) was a rigorous advocate of co-education and believed that women could successfully manage business and enter politics if men would only give them a chance. Her work marked the birth of the modern women's movement for equal right.
             During her adolescence, Mary Wollstonecraft witnessed violence towards women on a personal level, thus beginning her passion for the rights of women. Wollstonecraft endured a difficult childhood as she was denied the advantages and affection lavished instead on her older brother. Her parents often overlooked her needs, and she was always placed second to her sibling. Growing up Wollstonecraft was forced to watch her father, the prominent male figure in her life, exude violence and injustice towards women. Wollstonecraft often had to protect her mother from the drunken frenzy of her father, the son of a master weaver from London who tried unsuccessfully to set himself up as a gentleman farmer1. Many other eighteenth-century girls had to endure similar injustices and hardships. It was relevant that in a society that established all respect to men nothing would be done. Wollstonecraft understood this but did not accept it. It was Wollstonecraft's genius and determination that allowed her to rise above these severe handicaps and transform her experience into a dream of a re-ordered society. Wollstonecraft's experience with abuse did not end with her mother. In 1783, she helped her sister Eliza escape a miserable marriage by hiding her from her abusive husband until a legal separation was arranged2. The two sisters established a school at Newington Green, an experience from which Wollstonecraft drew to write Thoughts on the Education of Daughters: With Reflections on Female Conduct, in the More Important Duties of Life (1787).

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