A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

by

Mary Wollstonecraft

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A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Themes

Themes and Colors
Education and Virtue Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
The Primacy of Reason Theme Icon
Women’s Roles in Society Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Education and Virtue

In the late eighteenth-century treatise A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft agrees with some of her contemporaries that women do not seem to attain the same level of virtue as their male counterparts. However, she determines that this deficit is not due to some inherent weakness in women, but rather to the inadequate system of education that most middle-class English girls are subjected to. Wollstonecraft argues that women are typically only…

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Gender and Marriage

Throughout A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Wollstonecraft is often concerned with unequal relationships between men and women, including in marriage. Though she doesn’t ignore questions surrounding male virtue, she devotes more attention to the inadequate moral training which, she believes, leaves women ill-prepared to find worthy husbands and to build enduring marriages and families. What’s more, she argues that these weak families and unhappy marriages are in fact destructive for society as…

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The Primacy of Reason

Throughout her treatise, Wollstonecraft takes on caricatures of women that portray them as concerned only with trivial, external matters and therefore as unsuited to higher intellectual pursuits. To rebut this, she turns these common appraisals of women around, claiming instead that women generally aren’t given the chance to develop their reason, but have traditionally been allowed to let their emotions master them—thereby limiting their appetite and capacity for anything but trivialities. Wollstonecraft argues that women…

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Women’s Roles in Society

Wollstonecraft laments that, while men are generally prepared for professions, women “have no other scheme to sharpen their faculties,” and, in fact, they are encouraged throughout their lives to be “ever anxious about secondary things…instead of being occupied by duties.” Even those duties which society views as inherently feminine—like motherhood—suffer as a result of this attitude. To remedy this societal malaise, Wollstonecraft argues that women must be oriented toward meaningful things throughout their lives. This…

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