A Vindication of the Rights of Woman | Study Guide

Mary Wollstonecraft

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A Vindication of the Rights of Woman | Note | Summary



Mary Wollstonecraft begins with a note directed to French statesman Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (M. Talleyrand), who wrote extensively about the rights of man. She hopes her work will encourage him to reconsider his thoughts on the education of women, and she says women must be better educated to continue the advance of society. • Wollstonecraft argues: "If the abstract rights of man will bear discussion and explanation, those of woman, by a parity of reasoning, will not shrink from the same test." She challenges him to prove women are lacking in reason. Otherwise, she claims, the new Constitution of France "will ever shew that man must, in some shape, act like a tyrant."


Wollstonecraft applies the principles of the French Revolution to women, seeking "freedom" for women just as the French people earned their freedom from the monarchy. She specifically dedicated the second edition to M. Talleyrand, whom she met during his work on behalf of France. Talleyrand was a French statesman and a former bishop. During the revolution Talleyrand spoke forcefully about the need for equality among all citizens. He was also known to frequently change his position on crucial issues. Wollstonecraft may have had this in mind when she wrote to him. England and France have had a long and difficult history between them, and many powerful people in England at the time disapproved of the French Revolution. Wollstonecraft did not. However, she did object to the hypocrisy of Talleyrand and many others who set women off to the side as they campaigned for equality and freedom for all citizens, but really only for all men.

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