HER OWN WOMAN: The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft

Diane Jacobs, Author HER OWN WOMAN: The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft

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. (May 10)

Reviewed on: 04/02/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-7432-1470-4
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