2009 marked the anniversary of several important historical events. The one that got the most attention was the 200th anniversary of the birth of pioneering English naturalist Charles Darwin, the date also coinciding with the 150th anniversary of his revolutionary book on the theory of evolution, “On the Origin of the Species”. This has seen several films and documentaries, plus some great programmes and lectures – Melvin Bragg’s four part edition of “In Our Time” being a stand out example - I have enjoyed commemorating the man’s life and work. My parents’ company also worked on the biopic “Creation” and, best of all, got a contract at the
My third anniversary is a far less commemorated one. The “BBC History Magazine” – a great publication and podcast by the way – was the only time I saw this anniversary covered in the mainstream. Mary Wolstonecraft was a brilliant British intellectual, born on 27 April 1759, who wrote on a wide range of subjects. She wrote a treatise, history, philosophy, a book on conduct and even a children’s book. Wolstonecraft was a revolutionary thinker remembered almost completely for her feminism. Her reputation was seriously damaged when her well-meaning, honest and loving husband the great philosopher, William Godwin, wrote his memoir on her life after she died. By revealing her illegitimate children and her suicide attempts he only helped fuel the fire of his wife’s anti-feminist critics. A century later and Wolstonecraft’s argument for female equality was being voiced by angry numbers. Wolstonecraft put forward the argument that women were every bit man’s intellectual equal and should be treated as such, the only thing holding them back was education. The Suffrage Movement may have started in
However, my interest in Mary Wolstonecraft did come through an interest in feminism. It came through the daughter, Mary Wolstonecraft Godwin Shelley, the author of one of favourite novels, “Frankenstein”. But that is a topic for another day.
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