Course Hero. "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Study Guide." Course Hero. 29 Nov. 2017. Web. 16 Nov. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Vindication-of-the-Rights-of-Woman/>.
Course Hero. (2017, November 29). A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 16, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Vindication-of-the-Rights-of-Woman/
(Course Hero, 2017)
Course Hero. "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Study Guide." November 29, 2017. Accessed November 16, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Vindication-of-the-Rights-of-Woman/.
Course Hero, "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Study Guide," November 29, 2017, accessed November 16, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Vindication-of-the-Rights-of-Woman/.
Having written broadly about equality and society, Wollstonecraft now turns to her main issue: women's education. Wollstonecraft experienced the education—or lack thereof—of a typical middle-class English girl as she grew up. She also ran a school for girls, served as a governess, and published her Thoughts on the Education of Daughters. In 1792 a woman would not be considered an expert, but Wollstonecraft was, in fact, an expert on women's education. She demolishes one of the most common beliefs about women's education at the time: that men should manage women's education for them. In this section she moves from more broadly accepted principles to her women-specific arguments. She reminds the reader that kings and courtiers are not always better than the common man—a point that would find favor among most of her readers—then transfers that argument to men and women, suggesting not all men are always better than all women.
Just in case the logical argument is not sufficient, Wollstonecraft throws in an emotional/spiritual appeal, suggesting women's immortal souls may be endangered by their poor education. She rejects virtually everything previously written on this topic, particularly targeting Rousseau and Dr. Gregory. Rousseau's book Emile, published almost 30 years earlier, is a natural target for Wollstonecraft; it is guaranteed to inflame any supporter of female education. Rousseau describes the ideal education for a young man, Emile, to develop as a moral and virtuous person. Wollstonecraft might have few arguments if he had stopped there, but Rousseau also weighs in on the education of Sophie, Emile's intended wife. Sophie is taught to be submissive to Emile and to please him. Rousseau does not think women are stupider than men, but he consigns them to what he views as their "natural" role. This is precisely what Wollstonecraft is fighting against and it will not be the last time Wollstonecraft argues against Rousseau.
Wollstonecraft also objects to Dr. Gregory's A Father's Legacy to his Daughters, a far less lofty tome than Rousseau's works. Gregory was a physician who advised his daughters on how to live their lives. His book was a popular gift to young ladies in the 18th century. Gregory's advice was predictable, but Wollstonecraft vehemently disagreed with much of it, especially with the suggestion women should lie and deceive to make themselves "acceptable" by societal standards.