A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

by

Mary Wollstonecraft

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on A Vindication of the Rights of Woman can help.
Rousseau (1712-1778) was a prominent Enlightenment philosopher whose writings influenced the French Revolution and had a longstanding impact on political thought in general, as well as modern views of human nature. His 1762 treatise, Emile, or On Education, shaped national education in France. Wollstonecraft interacts with this work throughout A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, criticizing Rousseau’s views on the subservience of women.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau Quotes in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

The A Vindication of the Rights of Woman quotes below are all either spoken by Jean-Jacques Rousseau or refer to Jean-Jacques Rousseau. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Education and Virtue Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Publications edition of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman published in 1996.
Introduction Quotes

The conduct and manners of women, in fact, evidently prove that their minds are not in a healthy state; for, like the flowers which are planted in too rich a soil, strength and usefulness are sacrificed to beauty; and the flaunting leaves, after having pleased a fastidious eye, fade, disregarded on the stalk, long before the season when they ought to have arrived at maturity. — One cause of this barren blooming I attribute to a false system of education, gathered from the books written on this subject by men who, considering females rather as women than human creatures, have been more anxious to make them alluring mistresses than affectionate wives and rational mothers; and the understanding of the sex has been so bubbled by this specious homage, that the civilized women of the present century, with a few exceptions, are only anxious to inspire love, when they ought to cherish a nobler ambition, and by their abilities and virtues exact respect.

Related Characters: Mary Wollstonecraft (speaker), Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Related Symbols: Flowers
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

Weak minds are always fond of resting in the ceremonials of duty, but morality offers much simpler motives; and it were to be wished that superficial moralists had said less respecting behavior, and outward observances, for unless virtue, of any kind, be built on knowledge, it will only produce a kind of insipid decency. Respect for the opinion of the world, has, however, been termed the principal duty of woman in the most express words, for Rousseau declares, ‘that reputation is no less indispensable than chastity. […] as what is thought of her, is as important to her as what she really is. It follows hence, that the system of a woman’s education should, in this respect, be directly contrary to that of ours. Opinion is the grave of virtue among the men; but its throne among women.’

Related Characters: Mary Wollstonecraft (speaker), Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Page Number: 136
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire A Vindication of the Rights of Woman LitChart as a printable PDF.
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman PDF

Jean-Jacques Rousseau Character Timeline in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

The timeline below shows where the character Jean-Jacques Rousseau appears in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Women’s Roles in Society Theme Icon
...admits that she might be considered arrogant for taking on writers on this subject from Rousseau to Dr. Gregory, but she believes that all of these writers’ works have served only... (full context)
Education and Virtue Theme Icon
The Primacy of Reason Theme Icon
Women’s Roles in Society Theme Icon
...as so weak “that they must be entirely subjected to the superior faculties of men.” Rousseau takes the latter position, arguing that women therefore should not cultivate truth or fortitude (“the... (full context)
Education and Virtue Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
The Primacy of Reason Theme Icon
...made for the more important years of life, when reflection takes place of sensation.” Unfortunately, Rousseau, and male writers like him, say that the entire goal of women’s lives is to... (full context)
Education and Virtue Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
The Primacy of Reason Theme Icon
Women’s Roles in Society Theme Icon
Wollstonecraft argues that writers who argue as Rousseau does do not understand human nature. When the passion of youth passes, what are women... (full context)
Chapter 4
Education and Virtue Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Women’s Roles in Society Theme Icon
...men in adulthood, therefore more useful to society, and less subject to contempt. She quotes Rousseau’s line, “Educate women like men, and the more they resemble our sex the less power... (full context)
Chapter 5
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Women’s Roles in Society Theme Icon
Wollstonecraft examines contemporary writers’ objectionable claims about women, starting with Rousseau. In his book Émile, he argues that women were formed to be weak and passive,... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Women’s Roles in Society Theme Icon
Rousseau argues that since women are created differently from men in temperament and character, they ought... (full context)
Education and Virtue Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Wollstonecraft points out that all Rousseau’s view of education achieves is to render a woman “beautiful, innocent, and silly,” able to... (full context)