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Vindication: A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  138 ratings  ·  15 reviews
The founder of modern feminism, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) was the most famous woman of her era. A brilliant, unconventional rebel vilified for her strikingly modern notions of education, family, work, and personal relationships, she nevertheless strongly influenced political philosophy in Europe and a newborn America. Now acclaimed biographer Lyndall Gordon mounts a ...more
Paperback, 592 pages
Published May 2nd 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published May 3rd 2005)
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This is a beautifully written, intensively researched biography of an often misunderstood and greatly underappreciated woman. Lyndall Gordon has the enviable position of being a Senior Research Fellow at Oxford, so she has both the time and the access to apparently every extant scrap of her subject's life. Considering the considerable false press that enveloped Mary Wollstonecraft's short but super-eventful life, both the access and the time are crucial to understanding her and how unfortunate i ...more
By now I have read several biographies on Mary Wollstonecraft, and none of them have predisposed me to like her. My raging dislike turned to muted pity but not interest. I did not enjoy A Vindication of the Rights of Women my first read through. Proceeding works left me convinced she was a seriously confused woman who fell prey to the emotions she dismissed. Her life was a tragedy, certainly, ironic even. But a vindication for womankind? Not really. I thus approached this particular work with a ...more
As I expected (having really liked Gordon's bio of Charlotte Brontë), this was excellent. Gordon examines the truths and myths of Wollstonecraft's life in an illuminating way, with generally just the right level of detail. She does spend a little too much time on Gilbert Imlay (Wollstonecraft's lover and father of her daughter Fanny) and his business partners and intrigues, but other than that, I found this a very compelling biography (and now I want to reread Claire Tomalin's, when I have a cha ...more
So this was awesome! Not just because most of my context for Wollstonecraft before this book was as Mary Shelley's mother and the author of "A Vindication of the Rights of Women," but because Wollstonecraft was kind of amazing! Despite knowing what I know about the 18th and 19th centuries, I do sometimes forget how much a determined woman can do and the difference between things that are impossible and things that just aren't easy.
Gordon is a very sympathetic biographer and sees herself as enga
There's no greater tragedy in the history of mankind than the suppression of womankind. Though there have been exceptions; some queens have ruled, some societies have been matrilineal, but for the most part women have been the captives of men.

This is still the case in large parts of the world. The proof of the complete subjugation of a woman is the idea in her head that there really is no role for her except that assigned by men. As this book attests, even in England, a country at the cutting ed
A fairly solid biography of a fascinating figure surrounded by other fascinating people in an amazing era. The strength of the book is it's ability to tie MW's biography to global affairs. I also enjoyed how it's speculations were on what has been overlooked by previous biographies rather than the overdone focus on MW's sex life. This made the chapters dealing with Imlay gripping. My main gripe may actual be considered an asset by other readers: comparisons to Jane Austen's life and works are a ...more
This more than a biography of Mary Wollstonecraft. At least a third covers the legacy of her influences. I read this as an ebook from the library, which did not have the illustrations that would have increased my interest. Instead, I relied on Wikipedia for pictures as well as context for certain deficiencies in my knowledge of that period of history (such as Enclosure laws, and much more). An impressive amount of research is displayed, but I found the writing to be a bit tedious. And there was ...more
A biography of Mary Wollstonecraft, best known for being the mother of Mary Shelley. But she was an early feminist and lived an unconventional life that was misunderstood in her time. Gordon delves into letters and documents to correct the contemporary biography written by Wollstonecraft's husband. Starts kind of slow but gets very interesting. A little slow in the beginning but became very interesting as Wollstonecraft realized her genius and began to live her life in unorthodox ways. A good vi ...more
Jane Walker
This is as well-researched and detailed biography as one could wish. Naturally Gordon has used the copious correspondence which survives. But that's where it comes slightly unstuck. We hear Mary only through her writings and letters, and it never sounds like a speaking voice. Somehow I still didn't know this woman. Why did she find such favour with the cultural elites of the time so quickly? This is rather churlish, but the book left me disappointed.
Sep 28, 2007 Kylo rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: honestly: no one
Really disappointing, especially because Wollstonecraft was such an amazing and fascinating figure, and then because I'd heard good things about Lyndall Gordon. But this book has a weak voice, dips too often into academic quarrels, and most importantly lacks a center -- too often I found myself asking why LG was going into such depth on this or that after glossing over items of greater interest. Ah well. Wollstonecraft deserves a better biography.
Madeleine McLaughlin
Mary Wollstonecraft was a totally unique woman and this is a good book about her life and the women and men she influenced.
Craig J.
Vindication: A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft by Lyndall Gordon (2005)
Karen Powell
Vindication: A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft by Lyndall Gordon (2006)
Mary Wollstonecraft is my hero. such an amazing story.
This is such an excellent biography. Highly recommended.
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