Modern feminism begins with Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)—though the extent to which the book was initially ignored and its author vilified is often forgotten. Its argument, too, tends to be less memorable than the colourful details of Wollstonecraft’s life and her personal significance as an icon of the women’s movement. Everyone recalls her anguished search for love and economic survival, her unsuccessful liaison with Gilbert Imlay, her suicide attempts, marriage (against their principles) with William Godwin, and protracted death after a botched childbirth in 1797; fewer, perhaps, remember what she actually said about the difficulties women faced in late eighteenth-century society. Yet the connection between her life and her writing is vital, as it was to be for most of the women whose contribution to the development of feminism is discussed in this section. Nineteenth-century feminism evolved very much as a response to the specific difficulties individual women encountered in their lives: hence the emergence of ‘key personalities’, and a series of campaigns to achieve clearly defined ends. By the end of the century, major reforms had been accomplished, but the terms ‘feminist’ and ‘feminism’ had only just begun to be used. This seems emblematic of the discontinuous, sometimes hesitant and inconsistent pattern that campaigners for women’s rights established in the period under review.