Women’s Rights Activist Mary Wollstonecraft

Governance and equal rights for all people despite their gender is a controversial topic that is also open-ended, therefore various individuals form their own opinions and beliefs which can either contradict or support one another. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a Genevan philosopher and author of The Origin of Civil Society, elaborated on the idea that free will is a characteristic property of human beings, and implies the right of self-determination. Mary Wollstonecraft, author of Of the Pernicious Effects Which Arise from the Unnatural Distinctions Established in Society, on the other hand, was an English philosopher and a women’s right advocate in the late-to-mid 1700s, who argued that women were more than to serve men.


Rousseau claims that, although man is given freedom, they cannot exercise it to choose the kind of lives they prefer to live or the laws they would be willing to obey. In addition, he believes, that in order for society to work, one must aim for the common good of the general will rather than aiming for his individual.

He begins his rhetoric by stating that, “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains” (Rousseau 1). Otherwise stated, in their natural state, mankind is free but with civilization comes its laws and duties forcing man to act upon those expectations. Therefore man is “free” but with restrictions, and those restrictions are referred to as chains.

Wollstonecraft had a reputation of being a dynamic feminist of her time; arguing that a woman’s first duty is to herself then to her children.

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But realistically, they devote most of their time and attention to care for their families. Similarly, it is explained that women are meant to be of service to men. In other words, she believed that women have a greater purpose than to serve man, and that is to be independent and care for others while they also care for themselves. Wollstonecraft states that “… when a woman is admired for her beauty, and suffers herself to be so far intoxicated by the admiration she receives as to neglect to discharge the indispensable duty of a mother, she sins against herself by neglecting to cultivate an affection that would equally tend to make her useful and happy” (Wollstonecraft 6). This shows that Wollstonecraft asserts that women owe it to themselves to be more than just of assistance to others. Women often play the role of care-giver to their respective family because it has always been expected of them, resulting in them living for the purpose of others and not themselves which in turn creates a lack of intrinsic motivation. (more to be added)

Rousseau and Wollstonecraft both have ideas that can be viewed as compatible. As previously explained, Rousseau believes that, “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains” (Rousseau 1). This supports Wollstonecraft’s idea that women were made more than to serve men. Women are particularly in chains because they are restricted to live a life for the purpose of themselves.

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Women’s Rights Activist Mary Wollstonecraft. (2022, Apr 27). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/women-s-rights-activist-mary-wollstonecraft/

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