Friday Feminist – Mary Wollstonecraft (2)

My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone. I earnestly wish to point out in what true dignity and human happiness consists–I wish to persuade women to endeavour to acquire strength, both of mind and body, and to convince them, that the soft phrases, susceptibility of heart, delicacy of sentiment, and refinement of taste, are almost synonymous with epithets of weakness, and that those beings who are only the objects of pity and that kind of love, which has been termed its sister, will soon become objects of contempt.

Dismissing then those pretty feminine phrases, which the men condescendingly use to soften our slavish dependence, and despising that weak elegancy of mind, exquisite sensibility, and sweet docility of manners, supposed to be the sexual characteristics of the weaker vessel, I wish to show that elegance is inferior to virtue, that the first object of laudable ambition is to obtain a character as a human being, regardless of the distinction of sex; and that secondary views should be brought to this simple touchstone.

Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, 1792

2 responses to “Friday Feminist – Mary Wollstonecraft (2)

  1. I wonder whether Jane Austen read Mary Wollstonecraft. Her description of feminine graces very much reflects the societies Jane Austen described. I think Austen did promote character and independence as a human being, but only expressed it in terms of choice or marraige partner !

    Wouldn’t it be interesting if JA had written a book about a woman alone. Or perhaps we can look to minor characters … Miss Crawford? Hmmn.

  2. “…the first object of laudable ambition is to obtain a character as a human being…”
    Every other achievement is, as Mary says, secondary to this. Today we would perhaps term it, personality.