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Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  6,461 ratings  ·  721 reviews
Romantic Outlaws is the first book to tell the story of the passionate and pioneering lives of Mary Wollstonecraft – English feminist and author of the landmark book, The Vindication of the Rights of Women – and her novelist daughter Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.

Although mother and daughter, these two brilliant women never knew one another – Wollstonecraft died of
Hardcover, 649 pages
Published April 28th 2015 by Random House (first published April 23rd 2015)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  6,461 ratings  ·  721 reviews

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Start your review of Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley
Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of on my BookTube channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

An intimate look at the lives of two extraordinary women who unapologetically broke with convention and scandalized Victorian England.
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
This dual biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley utterly enthralled me. Both were talented, groundbreaking, independent thinking women, they each had drama and difficulties in their lives worthy of a Brontë novel, and between them they knew intimately some of the most interesting people involved with Romantic literature and radical political thought from the French Revolution through to the mid-Victorian years.

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born into a poor family with a
Diane S ☔
Jan 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
3.5 I have thought long and hard what to put in this review. Brilliant mother and daughter, fighters for women's rights, led lives that were frowned upon during their days and penned books that have impacted many and lived on. The author does a great job telling their stories in alternating chapters, using crisp and clear dialogue and moving the narrative forward at a stay pace. At times though I would be interested in one part of the narrative and it would end and switch to the other. Could kee ...more
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As soon as I started reading this double biography I got sucked in. It chronicles the lives of two amazing Marys. Mary Wollstonecraft the reformer and her daughter Mary Godwin Shelley.

MW and MGS both became famous in their own right during the times when they lived. Nowadays the more well known of the two is MGS because of her story "Frankenstein".

I have read previous biographies about both Marys. And this one will proudly sit on my self with other biographies I have about these amazing women a
Jul 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
This book borders on wrist-breaker status but despite the volume I wish there was more to read. I picked it up as more of a self-education piece and break from fiction, not really thinking about the entertainment factor. I learned so much. I had no idea who Mary Wollstonecraft was or how much hardship she and her daughter, Mary Shelley, went through during their lifetimes. Their hardships, strengths of character and literary talent make them incredibly inspirational.

Mary Wollstonecraft is born i
Sherwood Smith
Eminently readable biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. It's swapped off, each woman every other chapter. I found it best to skip the chapters and read one then the other. Well researched, but the author couldn't resist inserting her own opinions, occasionally self-servingly modern, even fatuous (such as the one about Claire Clairmont converting to Catholicism late in life to "share the same upbringing as her dead daughter") which has a tendency to make me look very warily at other ...more
Jul 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing

Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) died within days of giving birth to Mary Godwin who became Mary Shelley the writer/creator of “Frankenstein”. While death was a physical separation of Wollstonecraft and her daughter, author Charlotte Gordon explores how Wollstonecraft and her views on the role of women were embedded in Mary Godwin Shelley.

While the facts speak for themselves (women had no legal rights either to their property or their children in deference to a father or husband) Gordon shows throug
Aug 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
Recommended to Bettie by: Laura

Description: Juliet Aubrey and Ellie Kendrick read Charlotte Gordon's extraordinary biography of the pioneering feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, and her novelist daughter, Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein.

Mary Wollstonecraft, famous for her polemic A Vindication on the Rights of Woman, died ten days after giving birth to her daughter who wrote one of the nineteenth century's most significant novels, Frankenstein. Though she never knew her mother, Mary
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is such a fantastic biography that I suspect it will become my gold standard. It’s a dual biography of two well-known female intellectuals (who were also mother and daughter), Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. All I knew of either woman before reading this was her most famous book, but as it turns out they both lived fascinating – and, because they were writers, well-documented – lives. Both traveled internationally (Wollstonecraft even lived in France in the midst of its revolution), w ...more
Judith E
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The bra burning feminists of the 1960’s can’t hold a candle to Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter, Mary Shelley, and their revolutionary ideals of the 1800’s. Their feminist philosophy was shared with a large circle of liberal minded friends and family - Thomas Payne, Samuel Coleridge, John Keats, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, William Godwin, and John and Abigail Adams, to name a few.

Mary Wollstonecraft’s philosophical writings proposed education for women, protection from marital cruelty and in
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I listened to the audiobook, which was really well done. I had very little trouble remembering who was whom and such, though I didn't stress about remembering every single detail. It was fascinating to learn about the two Marys, how their work intersected with their lives and what unorthodox lives they led. This was overall a really, REALLY engaging dual biography and I highly recommend it. ...more
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Read for Tales & Co. | Review originally posted on A Skeptical Reader.

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon is a biography about the infamous mother-daughter duo, Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. Each chapter alternates between Shelley and Wollstonecraft and captures as much detail as is speculated or established about the two women. Although an intimidating tome from the outside, the biography within is a fast-pac
I've never been much for lengthy non-fiction tomes. I can count on one hand the number of biographies I've made it through, and yet, I'm obsessed with history - with the stories and human accounts, not the dry, sterile statistics. However, I was determined to at least skim through this book, because, after just finishing Frankenstein, I've become obsessed with Mary Shelley and her obvious genius. I've always been a poetry lover, but I have come late to the appreciation of the Romantic poets. I'v ...more
Amy Sturgis
These comments are based on an advanced reader copy provided by NetGalley in return for an honest review. Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for making it available.

“Without knowing the history of the era, the difficulties Wollstonecraft and Shelley faced are largely invisible, their bravery incomprehensible. Even those who revere mother and daughter do not fully realize how profoundly they challenged the moral code of the day. Yet both women were what Wollstonecraft termed ‘outlaws.’ Not only
I read about this book on and immediately wondered where a book like this has been all of my life.

I've been a longtime fan of both Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley, more so about their lives than their writing itself, though fully appreciating their writing even if I haven't always enjoyed what I read. But these two ladies, they had cojones and I think either one would have been a hoot to spend time with in their days.

As far as I know, this is the first dual biography which is a
Rachel Aranda
Nov 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library-rentals
This book earned a solid 4.5 star rating from me. This has to be one of the best biographies that I have ever read! I have no idea how Mrs. Gordon was able to write a book about two famous writers (a mother and daughter) and not have the book be messy. With all the information about their lives available from research it would make sense that a reader would get information confused about either the mother or the daughter (especially since they share a first name), but I was able to keep track of ...more
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Some write of what was; others of what is, she said, but I write of what will be.

Almost 700 pages of pure crack. I didn't want to put it down. True, I've always been fascinated with Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley, but this book delved into their motivations, their lives and the parallels between them, on a whole different level. If you don't have time for reading multiple biographies but are interested in these two luminaries, read Romantic Outlaws. Give it a chance, even if you think you
Feb 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, favorites

The Romantic Outlaws: Mary Wollstonecraft and her Daughter Mary Shelley was a compelling read. Charlotte Gordon presents parallel biographies of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley in alternating chapters.

These brilliant and iconoclastic women embraced ideals that made them social outcasts. They fell hard for men who broke their hearts. They both spent time as outcast, single mothers of illegitimate children. They believed--gasp--that women were equal to men in intelligence and potential; they
BAM Endlessly Booked
The book begins with expression of a dream of both women-that the day would come when men and women were equal, that all would deserve and be given the same rights, that human reason and the capacity for love would reform the world, that all would agree that the great enemies of happiness are cruelty, poverty, ignorance and tyranny, and that everyone is entitled to freedom and justice. Obedience is viewed as oppression.
Although there is obviously a generation's difference as they are mother and
Natalie (CuriousReader)
"Romantic Outlaws" is the ambitious double biography of Mary Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft, written by Charlotte Gordon. The choice for combining the two women’s life stories might seem strange to anyone who knows of their time-lines; Shelley’s birth coincided with her mother’s death, not spending more than a few days on earth at the same time. So what do their stories have to do with one another? As Gordon masterfully shows, we see not only parallels in the daughter Mary Shelley’s life choice ...more
May 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was brilliant. I freaking loved every page of this book.
I mainly bought this one to learn more about Percy Shelley than about two Maries as I’d been a fan of his since high school. I rewrote his essays into my journal, I printed his poems as I couldn’t find any physical poetry collections of his in Russian and didn’t know English well at the time. I was very interested in Mary too, as “Frankenstein” was one of my favorite books ever and I read it like a hundred times, but still it was Percy w
Bruce Cook
Nov 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My daughter gave this book to me for Christmas 2015. I asked her why she would give me such a book, a book about the lives of two women. She said she saw it in my Wish List. I couldn't remember putting it in my Wish List, but apparently I did, and I am glad I did. Even so, I don't think I would ever have read this book if it hadn't been given to me by my daughter.

I must confess to a fair amount of ignorance about the lives of these two women when I started reading the book. Of course, I had some
Apr 01, 2016 rated it did not like it
Well, I finally gave up on this one before I finished it. I just couldn't take it anymore! Although this biography is fairly well written, there are many things I dislike about it. I will describe just two of them.

First of all, the chapters alternate between the two separate life stories of of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. This made it very difficult to stay connected with each story. By the time I finished a chapter on Mary W., I had forgotten where we were in the story of Mary S. I eve
Aug 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Bettie, Wanda
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
Juliet Aubrey and Ellie Kendrick read Charlotte Gordon's extraordinary biography of the pioneering feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, and her novelist daughter, Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein.

1/5: Charlotte Gordon's biography of the pioneering feminist and her novelist daughter.

2/5: Charlotte Gordon explores the writing lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley.

3/5: Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley make though choices.

4/5: Testing times lie ahead when
Jan 17, 2020 added it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tyler J Gray

Wonderful biography on Mary Shelley and her mother Mary Wollstonecraft! Told in alternating chapters it came together really well and I learned so much about them. Amazing women! Amazing, and humanized.
Katie Ziegler (Life Between Words)
You know that expression, “the truth is stranger than fiction”? Well. This book embodies that sentiment perfectly. These two women led FASCINATING lives and were truly ahead of their time in so many ways. Mary Wollstonecraft was a radical trailblazer and Mary Shelley, her daughter, followed in her footsteps. I was shocked how modern their lives and beliefs felt. They lived during a time that was incredibly difficult for women. Much harder than it is today. And yet they held to their convictions ...more
Roman Clodia
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mary-shelley
Gordon has given us two parallel biographies here of mother and daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. Cleverly retelling their lives in alternate chapters, she manages to avoid the emphasis going to one or other woman, while subtly bringing out similarities between their ideas and the shapes that their lives took.

This is particularly important since I think most of us will be more familiar with Shelley's life than Wollstonecraft's, even though the latter probably had the more extraord
Christy B
This biography is to Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley what The Brontës is to Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë. Meaning: if there is one book you want to read on the two Marys, this is the one.

One unique thing about the book was the alternate chapters. Instead of talking about both women in a chapter, Gordon instead would dedicate one chapter to each woman at a period in her life. We literally go back and forth between the two.

Wollstonecraft, unfortunately, did not have as long
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the most extraordinary, riveting biographies I've ever read - extensively researched and contextualized (literary Romanticism was my main focus in college and I've had years of independent study on the main figures in the movement - it's rare for me to read a book about them, now, that contains more than a few facts, quotes, or anecdotes I haven't already heard or read. This book had DOZENS, all placed into perfect historical and literary context, examined with complexity and compassion, ...more
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“The real problem, said Mary, was not women, but how men wanted women to be.” 9 likes
“But the paradox of their success is that most modern readers are unaware of the overwhelming obstacles both women had to overcome. Without knowing the history of the era, the difficulties Wollstonecraft and Shelley faced are largely invisible, their bravery incomprehensible. Both women were what Wollstonecraft termed “outlaws.” Not only did they write world-changing books, they broke from the strictures that governed women’s conduct, not once but time and again, profoundly challenging the moral code of the day. Their refusal to bow down, to subside and surrender, to be quiet and subservient, to apologize and hide, makes their lives as memorable as the words they left behind. They asserted their right to determine their own destinies, starting a revolution that has yet to end.” 7 likes
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