"the Godwin and Wollstonecraft Debating Society"

Mary Wollstonecraft, 1797
Public DomainMary Wollstonecraft, 1797 - Credit: US Library of Congress
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) was a writer, philosopher and early advocate of women's rights. Her best known book, A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) argues that women's perceived inferiority, and historical silence in comparison to men, is the result only of a more limited education and not of any natural failings.

A controversial figure at the time, Wollstonecraft had two pre-marital affairs, one of which resulted in the birth of a child.  She later married the philosopher William Godwin; their daughter, who became Mary Shelley, was the author of Frankenstein (1818).  Her mother died ten days after the child's birth.

Today, Wollstonecraft is regarded as one of the founders of feminism.  Her husband, Godwin, posed an equal challenge to the state with his works questioning political justice and aristocratic privilege. After her death, Godwin published Wollstonecraft's memoirs as an act of memorial, but was harshly criticised for doing so since they revealed her, then scandalous, affairs and attempts at suicide.