Course Hero. "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Study Guide." Course Hero. 29 Nov. 2017. Web. 21 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 21, 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 21, 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 21, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Vindication-of-the-Rights-of-Woman/.
The first part of this chapter demonstrates Wollstonecraft's narrow view of life through a middle-class or upper-class lens. She paints an idyllic picture of family life, noting casually that she assumes the family has money enough for a maid and some luxuries. Most families in England at the time could afford neither a maid nor sometimes even the bare necessities, much less extras like new books. Wollstonecraft's narrow focus could be a result of several factors. First, her audience is middle and upper class—average laborers would not have had the money to purchase her publication and would be functionally illiterate. Second, she holds middle- and upper-class women at fault because they could be more socially active and choose not to be. Lower-class women had no such choice: if they didn't work hard, their families starved. Third, Wollstonecraft came from a comfortable, middle-class background, so she is writing about the class of people she knew. Perhaps most importantly, Wollstonecraft identifies the middle class as being the most "natural" and possessing the fewest bad habits about idleness and vanity. Therefore, she focuses on a middle-class family.
The African slavery to which Wollstonecraft refers is slavery on Caribbean islands possessed by the British. She was aware of the American slave trade, but focused on the British slave trade. There are multiple references to slaves in her book Vindication of the Rights of Man, published in 1790. Wollstonecraft's use of the term slavery in this book, however, reflects women's lack of control over their own lives.
Up until this point Wollstonecraft's plan for women's rights has seemed relatively mild. Now that she has persuaded her reader of her good sense, she launches her more revolutionary ideas: representation in government and careers for women. At that time women could not vote, and there would not be a female member of the British Parliament until the early 20th century. While some mostly lower-class women did work, these jobs were typically "menial," as Wollstonecraft describes them. She suggests women might become doctors—in fact, the first female physician in the United States would not graduate medical school until over 50 years later (Elizabeth Blackwell, 1849), and the first female doctor in Great Britain (Elizabeth Anderson) would not graduate until 1865. Wollstonecraft also suggests women might run a business, which was considered shockingly unladylike at the time. Clearly some personal history influences this section, as Wollstonecraft writes ruefully of the disrespect visited upon governesses. Earlier in her life she ran a school with her sister and a friend, but when the school failed, she took a job as a governess. The treatment she received was not respectful, so she was well aware how poorly some employers treated a woman who had to support herself and her children in the world.