Vindication Book Summary By Lyndall Gordon

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Vindication is an incredible book that tells the story of Mary Wollstonecraft, a complex individual who is now considered to be the founder of modern feminism.

Taken from some of the most fascinating moments in her life, such as growing up in an abusive household, co-founding a school and living in Revolutionary France, this book gives readers an incredible insight into her remarkable life.

Throughout her life Mary Wollstonecraft was admired for how unique she was with her thinking and views, and this influence has continued through generations up until today.

Vindication is an inspiring and thrilling tale that no reader should miss out on!


Book Name: Vindication (A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft)

Author(s): Lyndall Gordon

Rating: 4.6/5

Reading Time: 30 Minutes

Categories: Book Summaries

Author Bio

Lyndall Gordon is an esteemed author and senior research fellow at Oxford University.

She has written nine biographies on some of the most renowned literary figures, with several of her books being highly acclaimed for their excellence.

Her works include Eliot’s Early Years, a biography of T.S.

Eliot; Virginia Woolf: A Writer’s Life; and Charlotte Brontë: A Passionate Life - all bold attempts to explore the deep complexities of these iconic personalities.

With her insight, knowledge, and exceptional writing ability she is able to paint vivid pictures of their lives and unravel even the hidden stories behind them.

Although not widely known or celebrated in popular culture; Lyndall Gordon's works are widely appreciated among those who take literature seriously.

Mary Wollstonecraft: The First Feminist And The Life Experiences That Shaped Her Views

Life Experiences

When it comes to herstory, Mary Wollstonecraft is one of its most iconic figures.

She was known for being a pioneer of the women’s rights movement and has been labelled as the first feminist.

With her own words, she considered herself as “the first of a new genus” – the first daring woman who dared to question the then-held belief that women were born to be inferior to men.

Her most famous written work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, made Wollstonecraft a celebrity during her lifetime and continues to make an impact until today.

If you want to learn more about this influential writer and feminist, Bedtime Biographies can help you out!

Their book summary of Vindication will take you through what inspired Mary Wollstonecraft to fight for women’s emancipation and which life experiences shaped her views.

Get ready for an illuminating bedtime read!

Mary Wollstonecraft: Fighting For Women’S Rights And Deciding Marriage Was No Place For Her Sister

In the first chapter of Vindication, by Mary Wollstonecraft, readers meet the protagonist and her family.

The Wollstonecrafts live in a tall brick house on Primrose Street in London which, at the time, is a quiet residential neighborhood.

Mary is the eldest of seven children and therefore bears the brunt of her mother’s strict discipline.

She has to sit silently for hours on end and yet still maintains a tenderness towards her mother.

On the other hand, she despises her father Edward John – an aspiring gentleman who ultimately fails in every respect and takes out his anger on Mary’s mother through violence.

Mary often throws herself between them as if to shield her mother from him.

It is made clear that Mary’s environment shapes her outlook on life even at this early point – particularly when it comes to marriage; its laws strip women of their possessions, voices and autonomy, something which horrifies Mary so much that she resolves never to marry.

Instead she seeks out female companionship in Fanny Blood – whom she initially finds through neighbors – but eventually considers something close to soul mate material due to their shared love for art and Fanny’s skill at caring for siblings.

Mary Wollstonecraft Battles Grief And Illness To Advance Education Reforms For Women


In Chapter 2 of Vindication, Mary and her sister Bess are offered the opportunity to start a school – despite having no prior experience or education in teaching.

With the help of an elderly woman named Mrs.

Burgh, they decide to set up shop in Newington Green, 2 miles north of London.

They quickly manage to gain 20 students and are soon supported by their other sister Everina and a dear friend Fanny.

The school allows Mary to solidify her radical ideas on educating women; she believes that rote learning is not enough and that a one-size-fits-all approach should not be used for all children.

Instead, she encourages the development of individual thought processes through simple writing styles with limited flowery language and introduces home life into the curriculum, believing that emotional intelligence comes from parents.

Tragedy soon strikes when Fanny falls ill with tuberculosis and must move to Lisbon with her fiancé Hugh Skeys for better weather conditions.

Mary sets off to join them, only arriving just in time before Fanny gives birth – sadly also passing away shortly afterwards.

Mary stays in Lisbon for months afterward until she eventually has to return home alone without her beloved friend, left with only a lock of Fanny’s hair as consolation.

Mary Wollstonecraft’S A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman Paved The Way For Universal Equality In The Face Of Fear And Intolerance

In the third chapter of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, she emphasizes domestic affections as being at the heart of developing a person’s mind.

In this chapter, she claims that by having a balance between domestic and intellectual pursuits, both men and women can become more refined and enlightened in their understanding.

Furthermore, it is through proper emotional responses within family life that teachings of shared morality should be found.

In addition, Mary argues that these proper domestic responses are necessary for women to find the public recognition they deserve.

By stressing the importance of emotional relationships for both sexes to experience growth, Mary is effectively challenging traditional definitions of masculinity and femininity in order to open up possibilities for women’s self-governance.

Wollstonecraft insists on achievable change rather than dramatic upheaval and advocates for women to take part in intellectual debate with “good sense and propriety”.

Finally, she stresses nature as being a crucial factor in liberation from society’s restrictions – if only each woman embraced her own natural abilities instead of following an artificial set of boundaries imposed by society.

Mary Wollstonecraft’S Legacy Of Love And Bravery Despite Her Tragic End


In Chapter 4 of Vindication, Mary Wollstonecraft’s relationship with Imlay begins to strain.

After he moves to a shipping port northwest of Paris, their distance and her suspicion that he’s having an affair lead Mary to despondency.

Amidst this strife, Mary finds out she is pregnant.

She gives birth to a daughter named Fanny Blood on May 10, 1794 and the bond between mother and daughter grows close.

Later it is confirmed that Imlay has been sleeping with other women and Mary’s depression intensifies.

Furthering Mary’s misery is the involvement in a clandestine plot involving a shipment of illegal silver with Imlay at its center.

As his “ambassador,” Mary documents her travels in Scandinavia in Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark—a travelogue she writes full of disdain for these places she considers morally barren.

When she returns to England, the old acquaintance William Godwin comes back into her life.

This time though instead of neglecting her like last time, he reads her travelogue with admiration for the fiery woman behind it and eventually falls in love with her.

Hesitantly seduced by his honest character, Mary visits him more frequently despite what society dictates.

The two go on marry and have another daughter – who will one day become famous author Mary Shelley – but complications arise during childbirth when an infection sets it resultantly killing Mary shortly after on September 10th ,1797.

If you’re heading off to bed, I wish for your restful sleep and sweet dreams!

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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