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Her Own Woman: The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft [Kindle Edition]

Diane Jacobs
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $18.99
Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
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Book Description

Pioneering eighteenth-century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft lived a life as radical as her vision of a fairer world. She overcame great disadvantages -- poverty (her abusive, sybaritic father squandered the family fortune), a frivolous education, and the stigma of being unmarried in a man's world.
Her life changed when Thomas Paine's publisher, Joseph Johnson, determined to make her a writer. Wollstonecraft's great feminist document, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which brought her fame throughout Europe, insisted that women reap all the new liberties men were celebrating since the fall of the Bastille in France.
Wollstonecraft lived as fully as a man would, socializing with the great painters, poets, and revolutionaries of her era. She traveled to Paris during the French Revolution; fell in love with Gilbert Imlay, a fickle American; and, unmarried, openly bore their daughter, Fanny. Wollstonecraft at last found domestic peace with the philosopher William Godwin but died giving birth to their daughter, Mary, who married Percy Bysshe Shelley, wrote the classic Frankenstein, and carried on her mother's bold ideas. Wollstonecraft's first child, Fanny, suffered a more tragic fate.
This definitive biography of Mary Wollstonecraft gives a balanced, thorough, freshly sympathetic view. Diane Jacobs also continues Wollstonecraft's story by concluding with those of her daughters. Her Own Woman is distinguished by the author's use of new first sources, among which are Joseph Johnson's letters, discovered by an heir in the late 1990s, and rare letters referring to Wollstonecraft's lover Gilbert Imlay. Jacobs has written an absorbing narrative that is essential to understanding Mary Wollstonecraft's life and the importance it has had on women throughout history.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Diane Jacobs's exemplary popular biography makes pioneering 18th-century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97) a vivid character for contemporary readers. Much more sympathetic than Janet Todd was in her book Mary Wollstonecraft: A Revolutionary Life, Jacobs acknowledges Wollstonecraft's extravagantly emotional nature and wearying demands on loved ones, yet roots her shortcomings in frustration provoked by a society blatantly unjust toward women. Mary had to educate herself while her brothers attended the local grammar school; she cared for her dying mother while her farther seduced a younger woman; her sister could escape a bad marriage only by leaving behind a baby. The intelligent, unconventional Wollstonecraft's choice of occupations was limited to governess, paid companion, or schoolteacher, all of which she tried and detested.

No wonder she felt most at home with London radicals fired by the promise of the French Revolution, including publisher Joseph Johnson, who encouraged her early writing and in 1792 issued her most famous work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Jacobs does a nice job of conveying the scandalous impact of Wollstonecraft's then unprecedented insistence on economic and intellectual equality for women, and she evokes with similar immediacy the fervent atmosphere of revolutionary France, where Wollstonecraft fell in love with American Gilbert Imlay and bore his child. Imlay's desertion prompted two suicide attempts, but the perennially depressive Wollstonecraft found solace in England with philosopher William Godwin before dying of childbed fever after giving birth to a daughter, also named Mary, who would later run off with married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. In a narrative notable for its lively prose, dramatic punch, and positive assessment of the tempestuous Wollstonecraft, it's characteristic that Jacobs closes, not with her tragic death, but 19 years later as Mary Shelley began to write Frankenstein and "the revolution continued." --Wendy Smith

From Publishers Weekly

The life of Wollstonecraft, pioneer feminist, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, observer of the French Revolution, and mother of Mary Shelley, seems an odd choice for Jacobs, whose previous publications include studies of film directors Woody Allen and Preston Sturges. But her access to newly discovered primary sources, notably a cache of letters by Wollstonecraft's publisher, Joseph Johnson, provides the pretext for this new biography. By now the outlines of Mary's story are reasonably familiar. A feminist theorist of the time, her life manifests all the contradictions we might expect from one whose vision of liberty ran far beyond the strictures imposed on a woman of her time and circumstances. Biology was indeed destiny for Mary, much as she would have deplored it, and in the company of so many more ordinary women, her brief life ended because of a mismanaged childbirth. Jacobs covers the obvious moments in Wollstonecraft's biography, but focuses on her perilous and exhilarating two-and-a-half-year stay in France during the Terror, where she tried even French tolerance by bearing a child out of wedlock to her lover, Gilbert Imlay. Regrettably, the new material Jacobs has consulted appears to add little to our understanding of Wollstonecraft's passions and conflicts. Coming as it does hard on the heels of Janet Todd's recent and excellent Mary Wollstonecraft: A Revolutionary Life, this biography is less than essential.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


Product Details

  • File Size: 470 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (August 6, 2001)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FC0PPS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,412,570 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary work! August 23, 2002
Format:Hardcover
I had the great pleasure of reading and using Diane Jacobs' "Her Own Woman: The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft" while researching and writing my recent biography, "Theodosia Burr Alston: Portrait of a Prodigy (Corinthian Books, 2002). Vice President Aaron Burr, for all his flaws, was the first prominent American man to enthusiastically embrace and publicly endorse Wollstonectaft's radical feminist views on the equal education of women. He used her principles to give his teenage daughter, Theodosia, a "man's education" which would equip her for the three roles in life he envisioned for her: queen, president, or empress. I found Ms. Jacobs' work extremely insightful and enormously useful in understanding this woman who many cite as one of the first mothers of feminism. -- Richard N. Côté
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, always fascinating. July 2, 2001
Format:Hardcover
Diane Jacobs has taken the intriguing, and sometimes tragic story of Mary Wollstonecraft and turned out a riveting account of a true pioneer. Fresh and readable, the book makes use of previously unknown sources to provide a new perspective on someone who's life was even more dramatic than her important writings. Far and away the best book on Wollstonecraft. Truely enjoyable and highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Independent Spirit March 4, 2008
Format:Paperback
Today, most people know Mary Wollstonecraft for two things: her pioneering book, considered the first feminist work 'A Vindication of the Rights of Woman', and her famous daughter, Mary Shelley, author of `Frankenstein'. Diane Jacobs' biography shows that Wollstonecraft was much more than her works and progeny. Born into a life of unnecessary poverty (her father wasted the family money), Wollstonecraft, from an early age, fought against the injustices she saw around her. By the time she reached adulthood, she had rejected the typical role for women in the 18th century, especially where conventional marriage was concerned; she also believed there was more to life than teaching or being a governess (the acceptable occupations for women). After trials, more poverty, and unrequited love, Wollstonecraft comes into her own when she becomes a writer and then travels to France during the revolution: here she is exposed to the wider world, serves as an education advisor in one of the revolutionary governments, and meets the love of her life, American Gilbert Imlay, by whom she has a daughter, Fanny. Although the relationship doesn't last, self-realization propels her to a mature writing style and philosophy that was unfortunately cut short by her death after giving birth to her second daughter, Mary. Jacobs does an excellent job of chronicling Mary's life and work; however, I found the beginning of the book repetitious (but then again, so was her early life), and only when Mary goes to France did I find it to be interesting. What I found fascinating was the stereotypical `female' reaction Mary has to her deteriorating relationship with Imlay: plaintive letters and even suicide attempts to get attention and keep an unfaithful (and flaky) lover with her. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting! August 10, 2013
Format:Paperback
This is a good biography of a feisty, talented, independent as well as needy, emotionally volcanic and yet very intellectual woman...interesting, and historically important. A true slice of these interesting times.

Sandra Gulland

Coming in March of 2014: THE SHADOW QUEEN
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Look At A Fascinating Woman April 21, 2005
Format:Hardcover
If you are familar with Mary Shelley(or her classic book "Frankenstein") This extremely researched and well-written biography introduces you to her mother,Mary Wollenstonecraft(Godwin) A lady who was truly before her time(the late 1700's). The daughter of an abusive father and indiffrent mother,her brilliant mind enabled her to write the classic treatise "Vindication Of The Rights Of Women" while only in her 20's. She also journeyed to France and witnessed The French Revolution in all it's g(l)ory,had several passionate love affairs,one which produced a child though the father had no intention of leaving his wife and marrying her, making her a single working mother long before it was either fashionable or accepted. She married William Godwin ,(the father of the future Mary Shelley) and tragically died from complications of her childbirth at 38. Although Ms. Wollenstonecraft's life was short,it was well-lived and makes for fascinating reading that the author(Diane Jacobs) vividly brings to life with both immediacy and wit. An empowering book for woman as well as an engrossing bio for both sexes..
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