Her Own Woman

The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft

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About The Book

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.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (August 2001)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780743214704

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Raves and Reviews

Sydney Ladensohn Stern author of Gloria Steinem: Her Passions, Politics, and Mystique Diane Jacobs has created a sympathetic but honest portrait of one of feminism's primary intellectual foremothers. An engaging storyteller, Jacobs portrays her brilliant but evidently infuriating subject with insight and humor. Her Own Woman reveals not only the publication of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman but also Wollstonecraft's discovery of sex. A fascinating read.

Marion Meade author of Eleanor of Aquitaine If anybody embodies the modern feminist maxim "The Personal is Political," it's Mary Wollstonecraft, who seems to be as revolutionary today as she was in the eighteenth century. Her life oozed extravagant high drama and emotional cliff-hangers. When your subject is renowned for rushing to extremes, the prudent biographer knows to remain calm and step out of the way. In this enormously sympathetic biography, Diane Jacobs has handled a legendary hot potato -- a woman for all seasons and all centuries -- with admirable patience and common sense.

Stacy Schiff author of Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) Mary Wollstonecraft's courage continues to dazzle. Diane Jacobs showcases it beautifully in this lucid and absorbing biography.

Brenda Wineapple author of Sister, Brother: Gertrude and Leo Stein Set against the stirring backdrop of the French Revolution, Jacobs's spirited account of Mary Wollstonecraft sensitively portrays a bold woman in full dress: renowned author, unwed mother, rational feminist, headstrong and loving -- in short, an intelligent woman fully alive to her times and able to imagine ours.

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