Mary Wollstonecraft, my hero, Corbyn says


This 2017 video is called Mary Wollstonecraft – World History.

By Felicity Collier in Britain:

Mary Wollstonecraft is my historical hero, says Corbyn

Thursday 9th November 2017

JEREMY CORBYN has revealed his biggest historical hero: 18th-century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft.

The Labour leader expressed his admiration for Wollstonecraft in an interview with BBC History magazine published today.

An early advocate of women’s rights in the 18th century, she founded a school with her sister in Newington Green, which is now in Mr Corbyn’s north London constituency.

Last March, Mr Corbyn backed the campaign for a statue to the “outstanding writer and women’s rights campaigner” on the green.

He told the magazine that the “opening of a school that aimed to give girls an education every bit as good as that enjoyed by boys — a novel idea at the time” was the first reason he picked her as his historical hero.

“Then there’s the fact that (unlike a lot of people this side of the Channel) she was excited by the radical opportunities the French Revolution could bring,” he said. Having first learned about the writer and philosopher through the women’s rights movement in the 1970s and ’80s, he described her finest hour as the publication of A Vindication of the Rights of Women.

The 1792 text, which advocated equality of the sexes, made her famous and was a blueprint for the future women’s movement.

Mr Corbyn said: “It was Mary who had the vision of women leading lives every bit as full as any man.”

He also said he shared her beliefs in the way she treated people with respect, regardless of their sex, race or religion.

Wollstonecraft died 12 days after the birth of her second daughter, who went on to write the novel Frankenstein as Mary Shelley.

Advertisements

Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley, new biography


This video from Britain is called The Life of Mary Shelley.

By Susan Darlington in Britain:

Gripping account of romantic outlaws’ pains and pleasures

Saturday 27th June 2015

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon (Hutchinson, £25)

THE SHELVES are already groaning under the weight of books about Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. Romantic Outlaws, however, distinguishes itself by being a dual biography about mother and daughter.

Charlotte Gordon, who has previously written about poet Anne Bradstreet, examines the lives of the radical authors in parallel chapters in what is a hefty tome and in doing so shows how their lives were inextricably linked, despite Wollstonecraft dying 10 days after giving birth as a result of puerperal fever.

It would have been difficult for Shelley not to grow up in awe of her mother. She learned the alphabet from her headstone and Wollstonecraft was venerated by her father, the political philosopher William Godwin, and the intellectuals who visited their house, including Coleridge and Percy Bysshe Shelley, with whom she would elope at the age of 17.

Her upbringing, surrounded by enlightened views, was far removed from that of Wollstonecraft, whose political views were formed as an adolescent growing up with a weak mother and an alcoholic father who squandered the family’s money on failed projects. This made her determined to live on her own terms, free from financial or social dependence on men.

It was a resolution that resulted in her chasing pirates in Scandinavia and visiting Paris during the revolution. It was a city her daughter would visit 20 years later under very different circumstances, amid concerns over the new industrial age.

This would affect their writing — Wollstonecraft’s travel journals were largely optimistic while Shelley’s Frankenstein voiced a note of caution about science without ethics.

Yet while this writing gave both mother and daughter a degree of financial independence, their lives had a central contradiction in their emotional subservience to the men they loved. Wollstonecraft became obsessed with unscrupulous businessman Gilbert Imlay while her daughter suffered periods of depressive anxiety over the faithfulness of Shelley.

Their belief in free love affected not just on their own lives but had tragic consequences for women on the periphery, the book being littered with the suicides of Shelley’s first wife Harriet and Wollstonecraft’s daughter by Imlay, Fanny.

It’s a pain for which Shelley would later come to feel she was being punished for inflicting and this absence of sisterhood where love was concerned is an area that deserves more detailed analysis.

Another aspect that could be covered in more depth is the footnotes of their lives, with Godwin’s memoir of Wollstonecraft having the unintentionally damaging effect of portraying her as a hysteric. Shelley’s reputation was equally damaged by her conservative daughter-in-law Jane, who shaped her as a respectable literary wife at the cost of her desire to live along feminist ideals.

These minor points aside, this is an engaging book that shows clear affection for its subjects. It subtly points out how little progress feminism has made in some areas — the central tenets of chick lit being the same as the ones Wollstonecraft decried in 18th-century novels — and it certainly demonstrates both the excitement and pain of being a romantic outlaw.

At the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. Frankenstein: Exciting production marks 200 years since publication of Mary Shelley’s work. By Margot Miller, 12 April 2018.

Mary Shelley, new film reviewed: here.

Mary Shelley on stage


This video from Britain is called Mary Shelley Biography.

By Barbara Slaughter in Britain:

Mary Shelley—A new play about her remarkable life and times

13 June 2012

Mary Shelley, a new play by Helen Edmundson, opened in Leeds on March 16 and, after a national tour, is now running at the Tricycle Theatre in London until July 7. It is a joint production of Shared Experience, Nottingham Playhouse and West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Edmundson’s play is based on the relationship between the remarkable Mary Shelley, future author of Frankenstein and wife of poet Percy Shelley, and her father, radical journalist and philosopher William Godwin, between 1813 and 1816.

The play opens with 16-year-old Mary dreaming about an attempted suicide by her late mother, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), the advocate of women’s rights and defender of the French Revolution. The young Mary is traveling by sea from Scotland back to her home in London and has recently read Godwin’s biography of her mother, published in 1798. Profoundly moved by the candid and revealing book, Mary is inspired to live as her mother did.

Wollstonecraft died of puerperal fever, 11 days after Mary was born. Overcome with grief, Godwin began writing Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman only two weeks later. This was a heartfelt account of Wollstonecraft’s astonishing life, written by a man who loved her and appreciated her unique qualities as a writer and a revolutionary.

He was criticised mercilessly by the reactionary press, and middle class public opinion was “scandalised”. In the end, Godwin felt obliged to compromise and published a sanitised version of the memoir, with all mention of her love affairs, attempted suicides and illegitimate daughter removed.

Godwin educated Mary and her stepsister Fanny Islay as their mother would have wanted, to fight for political justice and social change and to face the world and its travails with fortitude and honesty.

See also here.

Feminist Mary Wollstonecraft’s new edition


This video is called Karla Carter on Mary Wollstonecraft, Part Two.

By Susan Darlington in Britain:

A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman
by Mary Wollstonecraft with introduction by Sheila Rowbotham (Verso, £8.99)

Wednesday 30 June 2010

Anyone interested in gender politics will doubtless already own or at least be aware of Mary Wollstonecraft‘s A Vindication Of The Rights of Woman.

The issue, therefore, isn’t so much about the quality of the original text as to whether this edition, the 13th in Verso’s Revolutions series, merits reinvestment.

The crux of this rests with the 23-page introduction, which has been written by respected feminist historian Sheila Rowbotham.

This certainly piques interest in the book, successfully placing it within the political and social context of the times – the French Revolution and the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

It also briefly examines the impact it has had on future generations of feminists, its vibrant and forthright style of writing positing many ideas that remain on the women’s rights agenda.

The introductory essay is equally good at drawing out inherent contradictions in many of Wollstonecraft’s arguments, noting that she advocates both a rational view of women’s role in society and the Romantic call for “an emotional and spiritual place in the heart.”

These self same oppositions dogged Wollstonecraft’s own life, often to devastating effect, yet Rowbotham affords no real understanding of the forces that drove the 18th century woman to question and defy societal conventions.

The place for such discussion is probably in a biography and not in this introduction.

To that end, Rowbotham’s accessible essay serves its purpose in arousing an interest in its subject, the author’s life and the politics of the time.

There have, however, been previous editions of the book that provide more fulsome background reading, such as Miriam Brody’s introduction for Penguin Classics.

As such, while Wollstonecraft’s book is essential for those interested in the roots of early feminism, this isn’t necessarily the definitive edition.