Course Hero. "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Study Guide." Course Hero. 29 Nov. 2017. Web. 15 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 15, 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 15, 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 15, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Vindication-of-the-Rights-of-Woman/.
Wollstonecraft now addresses a controversial topic—women's sexuality. Later in her own life, Wollstonecraft's personal and sexual choices damaged her reputation and diminished the impact of this book, but in this chapter she writes cautiously. She primarily criticizes loose sexual morals in upper-class society, a safer topic. She does explore a few more daring points, however. She cites Catharine Macaulay, a female historian who also wrote about education. Macaulay advances the idea, revolutionary for the time, that a woman who has been sexually active outside of marriage is not a ruined person. Macaulay and Wollstonecraft were not engaging in hyperbole: society considered women who were sexually active outside of marriage no better than prostitutes. Some even ended up as prostitutes after their families rejected them. Wollstonecraft also briefly mentions abortion and infant abandonment, practices, which at the time, were considered morally repugnant and, in the case of abortion, illegal. As usual, Wollstonecraft lays the blame for women's shortcomings on men. This may seem like feminist male-bashing, but Wollstonecraft makes the reasonable argument that if men want to take responsibility for women's education, they must also take responsibility for the outcomes.
Wollstonecraft continues to demonstrate her own intellectual credentials, citing both Macaulay and Adam Smith in this chapter. To a modern reader, Adam Smith is known for The Wealth of Nations, but at that time he was known more as a philosopher than an economist. Wollstonecraft quotes from his Theory of Moral Sentiments, using Smith to bolster her argument that reputation may sometimes shield a person from justified criticism.