Mary Wollstonecraft and the feminist imagination


Mary Wollstonecraft and the feminist imagination

Barbara Taylor

(Cambridge studies in romanticism, 56)

Cambridge University Press, 2003

  • : hardback
  • : paperback

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Includes bibliographical references (p. 308-322) and index



In the two centuries since Mary Wollstonecraft published A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), she has become an icon of modern feminism: a stature that has paradoxically obscured her real historic significance. In this in-depth 2003 study of Wollstonecraft's thought, Barbara Taylor develops an alternative reading of her as a writer steeped in the utopianism of Britain's radical Enlightenment. Wollstonecraft's feminist aspirations, Taylor shows, were part of a revolutionary programme for universal equality and moral perfection that reached its zenith during the political upheavals of the 1790s but had its roots in the radical-Protestant Enlightenment. Drawing on all of Wollstonecraft's works, and locating them in a vividly detailed account of her intellectual world and troubled personal history, Taylor provides a compelling portrait of this fascinating and profoundly influential thinker.


  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Mary Wollstonecraft and the paradoxes of feminism
  • Part I. Imagining Women: 1. The female philosopher
  • 2. The chimera of womanhood
  • 3. For the love of God
  • Part II. Feminism and Revolution: 4. Wollstonecraft and British radicalism
  • 5. Perfecting civilization
  • 6. Gallic philosophesses
  • 7. Women vs. the polity
  • 8. The female citizen
  • 9. Jemima and the beginnings of modern feminism
  • Epilogue: the fantasy of Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Bibliography.

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