ABSTRACT

In the chapter of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman entitled ‘T he State of Degradation to Which Woman is Reduced’, Mary Wollstonecraft suddenly breaks away from addressing the reader, usually presumed by her to be a man, to address the only male she acknowledged as her natural superior:

Gracious Creator of the whole human race! hast thou created such a being as woman, who can trace Thy wisdom in Thy works, and feel that Thou alone art by Thy nature exalted above her, for no better purpose…[than] to subm it to man, her equal — a being who, like her, was sent into the world to acquire virtue? Can she consent to be occupied merely to please him — merely to adorn the earth — when her soul is capable of rising to Thee?

Wollstonecraft, never short of an answer, then goes on to reply to her own question: ‘if [women] be moral beings, let them have a chance to become intelligent; and let love to man be only a part of that glowing flame of universal love, which, after encircling humanity, mounts in graceful incense to God.’ 1