Kate E's Reviews > A Vindication of the Rights of Women

A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft
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Jan 24, 11

bookshelves: feminist
Read from January 17 to 24, 2011 — I own a copy

01.24.11- Book is finished, in-depth review to follow. In this book, Wollstonecraft makes the argument that women are by nature physically weaker than men, but that any difference in cognition comes from education alone (i.e., nurture). She further argues that women ought to be provided with an education that feeds their reason as well as their sensibilities.

I gave this book 3 stars for its historical place as a fundamental feminist classic. Despite her good thesis, Wollstonecraft has a cumbersome, overwordy style that felt ponderous. At times, she would take several chapters to explain a sentiment that I could express in a sentence. Moreover, rather than argumentation and appeals to reason, her arguments rest on personal anecdotes, circuitous reasoning, and overgeneralizations of human nature, in addition to a specific understanding of God. Indeed, her entire novel rests upon the presumption that the Creator intended women to have a certain feminine aspect, which should include some things but exclude others. Not agreeing with her vision of the Almighty, it was often difficult for me to agree with her rationales for many of her arguments.

The book was also difficult to read because it was riddled with prejudices that to any modern reader appear to be highly bigoted. Because these bigoted examples are used to form the crux of some of her arguments, her prejudiced generalizations of Muslims, Roman Catholics, Africans, and the poor working class only serve to weaken her arguments.

Still, the book deserve due respect for what it does offer: An insider's view into what life was truly like for many upper-class women in Britain during the "fashionable" Victorian, late Victorian, Regency, and Edwardian periods. Women were prized for their weakness, delicate constitutions, and frailty, and were educated to please men, with little to no education on how to raise or even breastfeed their children. In the event that women found themselves widowed or unmarried, women were left with few options for the support of their families. Women were not given any option in that society to act as "individual citizens". This book was the first of its kind, arguing that women should be seen as more than simply ornaments to the fashionable beau.

01.21.11 - 35% through the book, according to Kindle. This book is horribly slow going, in part because I so strongly disagree with her methods of argument. She claims scientific "knowledge" that has been long since debunked and makes crass overgeneralizations based entirely in her head and not in fact. Still, since the book was written in 1792, I have to read it in the light of the times it was written. Still slogging through...
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Reading Progress

01/21/2011 page 160
77.0% "This book is horribly slow going, in part because I so strongly disagree with her methods of argument. She claims scientific "knowledge" that has been long since debunked and makes crass overgeneralizations based entirely in her head and not in fact. Still, since the book was written in 1792, I have to read it in the light of the times it was written. Still slogging through..."
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message 1: by Heather (new)

Heather Olson Beal Oh, man, I am trying to read this as well and it is like pulling TEETH. Dang. I think I'm on about page 50.


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