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Wollstonecraft, Mary

  1. Rosemarie Tong

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee468

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Tong, R. 2013. Wollstonecraft, Mary. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–97) was a British philosopher, writer, and feminist. Her writings are a challenge to interpret because they are both personal and practical. Wollstonecraft lived during a time of great sociopolitical upheaval, highlighted by the French Revolution. In fact, Wollstonecraft spent time in France just before Louis XVI was guillotined. Like many British expatriates, she was forced to flee France after Britain declared war on it. In addition to living through the exciting days of the French Revolution, Wollstonecraft was part of a movement that in Western Europe gave rise to a new middle class built on fundamental liberal values: rationality, independence, free speech, free enterprise, hard work, and meritoriousness (see Liberalism). This rising middle class was bolstered by a family structure in which men and women played clearly defined and supposedly equally important roles (see Family). Among the important philosophical issues that this new middle class had to address was the relationship between reason and feeling (sensibility) in both the private and public domains.


  • eighteenth century;
  • Europe;
  • feminism;
  • feminist philosophy;
  • liberty;
  • literature;
  • rights;
  • Wollstonecraft, Mary