Juanita's Reviews > A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
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Apr 12, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: older-books
Recommended to Juanita by: School
Recommended for: College students, feminists
Read from May 03 to June 08, 2011 — I own a copy , read count: 0

Mary Wollstonecraft was a 16th century mother, teacher, writer, philosopher, feminist, and journalist. She wrote several books and stood out as a rebel in her day. I HAD to read this book because of a college project. But after just the first page I understood why Mary stood out.

She was a brilliant and fearless author. For my class I had to research the ways that women were treated in the 16th century as it related to the bravery of Wollstonecraft. Women HAD to be married in order to entertain even the slightest hope of a satisfactory life; meaning if they expected to eat, they had to be married; if they wanted to be respected by society, they had to be married; if they expected to just have – not enjoy - sex (as an orgasm – even making noise according to Mary during sex - for a woman was considered tawdry), they had to be married. So being single for a woman at least was not a reasonable option. Mary was single until the year of her death at age 38.

Every page I read had some quote that read like a modern day revelation. Example: “Women are told from their infancy, and taught by example of their mothers, that a little knowledge of human weakness, justly termed cunning, softness of temper, outward obedience, and a scrupulous attention to a puerile kind of propriety, will obtain for them the protection of man; and should they be beautiful, everything else is needless, for, at least, twenty years of their lives.” – page 16. Mary later stated (paraphrasing) that this view, that women need only be beautiful, cunning, and obedient, was a fallacy. She even talked about education being the key to not needing a man to “protect” a woman.

I am not a feminist in the traditional, extreme sense. I believe that it is not only OK to allow a man to lead his household but feel that it is essential that that man take the lead in order for family life to run smoothly – like any other business – IF a man is in a woman’s life. However, I do not feel that women NEED men in order to to raise a family, prosper financially, emotionally, or in any other way. Mary believed this when no one else – male or female – did.

Mary argued time and again for the rights of an education for women saying that we are the first teachers of our children. Therefore an educated woman is even more necessary than an educated man if we wish to get our kids off to a good start in life.

She believed that women were more than our reputations or our standing in society. She wanted all women to realize that they were of substance. That’s why this book, though hundreds of years old, is a book that I read so often.

I gave the book just four stars because it was difficult for me to read and will be a difficult read for most ordinary readers since it is written in the grammatical tone used in Mary’s day. It’s almost in another language because the sentence structure is so different than what we use today. But it is more than worth the effort!
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06/10/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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message 1: by Petra Eggs (new)

Petra Eggs A man has to take the lead for a smooth family life!!!! That really had me surprised. I don't think I could live in a relationship that had a boss, no matter what the title. I like partnerships.


Juanita Petra X wrote: "A man has to take the lead for a smooth family life!!!! That really had me surprised. I don't think I could live in a relationship that had a boss, no matter what the title. I like partnerships."

Hey Petra!!!

I agree with you: partnership in any relationship is vital. Taking the lead of a household doesn't mean you're the boss. It means you're taking responsibility for your family.

When driving a car there can be but one driver. Taking the lead means that a man should be supported by his wife, not that he should enslave his wife, lord over her, or be demanding of her.

Note, too, that I said IF a man is involved. I have no man and am running my home very smoothly. I simply recognize the Godly order of things.

Rough subject: submission, isn't it? :)


message 3: by Petra Eggs (new)

Petra Eggs Our religions are different. Submission in any form has no part of mine! You find it godly and I find it horrific and therefore we will have to agree to disagree!


Juanita What do you think submission means?


Juanita Submission can mean “yielding, or a readiness to yield,” yield meaning to allow another person to proceed first. In any god relationship, BOTH partners need to have this attitude, the attitude that the way the other person feels in the relationship is as important as their own feelings. I often “submit” to my son, to my sister, to my friends, to my teachers, to my landlord, to my mailman, to my employer, to my lover – when I have one :). If I get married, this submission will continue.

Submission, when it is used in the biblical sense, implies not weakness, but contrarily, vigor and strength of character. Often times, I submit to people who are both physically and intellectually inferior to me. Anyone can remain unmovable when it comes to demanding that their needs are met. It takes courage and sometimes even heroism to submit when you absolutely don’t have to. Because people don’t like the word “submission,” it is regularly translated as “compromise.” The link at the core of ALL relationships bringing and keeping them together, whether that relationship be with a man or a pet, is compromise.

I in no way see submission IN THE BIBLICAL SENSE as restrictive or horrifying. On the contrary, I see it as a gift that I give to those whom I love and as a necessity in maintaining good business relations. I am strong enough, self-aware enough to allow others to occasionally guide me through this journey called life; i.e., to submit to them. I am proud of this fact.


message 6: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Why is it that a woman isn't able to run her own household? As smoothly as a man may be able to take charge of a family--so can the woman, so why go back into traditional gender-steryotypes? I'm surprised to hear someone say that nowadays...but I suppose it'll hundreds of years from now until people truelly recognize equality and push away from gender constraints.


Juanita Hello Hannah!

It's been so long since I wrote this that I had to re-read the whole conversation to know what you were commenting on! :)

I don't think that I stated one time that a woman CAN'T run her home smoothly. I did state that I am a single mom and run my home better than most tribes have the pleasure to run their people. I LOVE being the head of my household and do a great job at it - my son is one of the smartest, most respectful, kind-hearted, loving children you could ever meet.

What I stated was that I BELIEVE that the home will run more smoothly IF THERE IS A MAN IN THE HOME when this man TAKES THE LEAD. Not that he herds his family like cattle, not that he beats his wife into submission, not that he demands that she cater to his every whim, not that he demands she not look him in his eye, not that she walk 15 feet behind him. Taking the lead simply means that he guides his family spiritually and emotionally. That his wife raises his children along with this man - not instead of him. That he takes the time to lead his family in showing honor and love.

Men are not "better" than women, but neither are women "better" than men. There are valuable roles on any team - and a family is a team. Everyone needs to play their part in order for the family to run well. That's all I was saying.

I do not aim to offend anyone, but I am not at all afraid to put my beliefs on display and will never shy away from them. It's easy to read a few words and respond with very little delving into the true meaning of what's been written. I kindly advise you to look over what I wrote again with an open mind and heart. Then respond again.

I look forward to hearing from you soon, Hannah!!!


Megan Hewins I really enjoyed reading your review and I am even more humbled by your openness and willingness to discuss your ideas without being defensive.

To the main point of contention commentator are having - I think you have a valid point in the idea that one person drives a car. Often in all manner of relationships one person takes the lead. Some people painstakingly forge equal partnerships, but most do conform to a more traditional power dynamic and that choice is naturally up to the people involved in that relationship. The only point of contention I have to your thesis is the idea that the dominant role is determined by gender.

In many of the hetereo-normative relationships I see, it is more often the woman who steers the ship and the male that happily defers to her judgement.

If a couple chooses to structure their relationship in terms of that kind of power dynamic do you believe it is the male that always must take the lead? Are you saying that in that traditional family structure it is the male's natural place or just that that traditional structure with the male in the lead is the kind of relationship that you personally prefer?


Juanita Hello M. C.!

Thank you for your well-thought-out response and for your kind compliments of what I wrote. You are a truly well articulated person.

I had to re-read the conversation to remind myself of what I’d said. :) What I said then I still believe.

IF a woman CHOOSES to be married, then her man should take the lead. And, yes, that is gender based. Why? All of the above was based on the BIBLICAL sense of marriage because Mrs. Mary wrote this book at a time when the Bible meant all to her and the people around her; she mentioned it several times throughout the book. I still hold that belief system. The Bible explains the male role as being a role model for his family – not a tyrant. He gains this place for no reason other than the fact that he was created FIRST. That's why it's gender-based in my eyes.

You’re a keen observer, as most people sense that they are seeing just what you noted above. I must, very respectfully, :) disagree with your observation that that the woman steers the ship in successful relationships. What you're seeing, of course only in my humble opinion, is a well-guided FAMILY, and if it’s guided fittingly, the man WILL NOT give his responsibilities to his wife. She just WEARS his blessed direction so well as to hide his loving and morally sound efforts amongst the undeniable growth of his family.

Now, as for the husband deferring to his wife's direction, that's what marriage is! Learning from ALL, growth, and compromise! You have NO IDEA how much I learn from my kid EVERY SINGLE DAY! Let me give you an example of what I mean, M. C.:

Often, in any SUCCESSFUL workplace, a boss/president of a company will often call meetings and ask for guidance in handling some issue that may arise. He may speak to the vice president and get her opinion on the subject. Because she's worked there for eons, he recognizes her opinions are valid. I mean, he HIRED her because she was smart and knew how to solve problems. He ENJOYS her opinions and LOOKS to her for the major decisions involving the company. In fact, he’d NEVER make a move without her opinions being FULLY considered and even takes guidance from her in where SHE thinks the company should go next. He knows that her thoughts are solid, he agrees that her way of handling things in this instance is the best. He 'submitted' to her. Is he still the President? Yes. Did his status somehow change because his VP gave him useful advice that he took? No. So submission NEVER MEANS DOMINANCE in this context. It means allowing/acknowledging a man’s God-given familial role. It also means that the all understand that the president is not allowed to be a tyrant; if so, he is unworthy of his title and should be ousted. But he should be smart enough, balanced enough, to be able to carry the family emotionally with the most necessary assistance of his VP. He carries the spiritual and moral weight of the family - or at least he SHOULD. And his wife, in my opinion, should be more than willing to support his leadership.

I like being a girl. :) I like my role. And I am very dominant - it’s my nature. I’m working on that. :) But I know how to compromise and so does the man that shares my bed. So I agree with what I see as the Biblical roles of man and woman. And that does not demote me in my relationship. It really helps me to better my life, M. C.!

Again, thanks for your thoughts. I enjoyed reading them, and look forward to reading some of your reviews in the future!


message 10: by Ana (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ana Rînceanu Mary Wollstonecraft lived in the 18th century not the 16th century


Juanita Thanks for pointing out that years old error in my review Ana! I never noticed I'd typed 16th century instead of 18th. You'd make a great editor!

While we're correcting minor details, always add a punctuation after giving a contrasting thought in a single sentence. For example, remember that when writing a thought like: "... Lived in the 18th century, not the 16th" the comma shows that the thought is opposed yet linked. Also, always use a period at the end of a thought.


message 12: by Ana (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ana Rînceanu Since I don't put much of an emphasis on grammar, I don't think I'd make much of an editor. Mary would be appalled:)


Juanita Especially when you are critiquing another, Ana, should you be sure that all of your own 'ducks are in a row.' It would seem reasonable that if you're offering corrections, you yourself have no need to be corrected. ;)

Mary was a feminist, a woman who believed that women were just as articulate and as smart as - or smarter than - men. She believed that women could and should be well-spoken. Her book shows her phraseology to be up to the standards of poetry. Her prose was well defined - almost enchanting. And so, while I'd never encourage anyone to be verbose, I'd encourage you to at least be grammatically close to accurate and to fully express your thoughts. Your lackadaisical and shoddy grammar would have killed her far more so than an accidental rendering of the century in which she thrived. :)


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