A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

by Mary Wollstonecraft

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What position does Wollstonecraft take in "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman"?

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In Mary Wollstonecraft's essay, "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman," published in 1792, the author takes the position that women are more than those who were made to be both "docile" and "obedient" (chap 2, para 3). She argues that women are raised by their mothers to be weak and "soft." This softness makes a woman no better than a "domestic animal" (chap 2, para 4). Furthermore, Wollstonecraft goes on to lament the position of women in relation to that of men. That is, men view women as weak and subservient, and society believes a woman's role is to care for her physical looks and obey her husband.

The author believes that education, a woman's upbringing, is the key to a woman gaining independence. This education is one based upon reason and understanding. Until women gain this education, they will not be able to take their proper place in society.

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Perhaps the most important position Wollstonecraft takes in this work, and the key argument she makes, is that women are fully capable of rational thought and are as deserving of education as men. Indeed, Wollstonecraft goes further to suggest that it is vital for women to be educated: only if they are educated can they be proper "companions" for their husbands. Moreoever, knowledge can not be fully advanced in society unless "truth [is] common to all." Wollstonecraft suggests that educated women are vital to ensure that children acquire knowledge as quickly and thoroughly as they should because women are the primary caregivers of children of both genders. As such, if young children are looked after by uneducated women they will be unable to fulfill their true potential. Additionally, women cannot serve as "companions" to men but serve rather a decorative function if they are ill-equipped to talk to their husbands due to a lack of equivalent education. As such, not only do women deserve an education because they are rational beings, society deserves to be comprised of educated women as well as educated men.

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