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on 22 March 2002
This might be a frightening generalisation, but the majority of people reading this book are probably doing so in the confines of a formal education course. If you're a woman and the following statement is true Mary Wollstonecraft would be delighted. This book is a complex philosophical argument for the emancipation and education of women. The language of the book, as with most late eighteenth century text is wordy and therefore it's going to be slow read, to understand and evaluate Wollstonecraft's arguments. However, the arguments she makes are skilful and still with relevance today.
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on 14 May 1999
For anyone into philosophy, this is a definate read. A product of the Age of Reason, Mary Wollstonecraft applies reason to why women should be educated equally with men so both may benefit from virtue. Very intriguing even for a man. Read it.
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on 5 September 2011
Mary Wollstoncraft is pretty well spot on with her observations of men and women as they were in Regency times. If she were to come back today she would be amazed at the progress that has been made in women's rights, yet in some ways things have not changed. Men have not changed. Mary Wollstoncraft was wrong in thinking that men could be changed. There is still the glass ceiling. There are still women who actually want to be dependent on men and seem to enjoy pleasing men, and that was certainly the lot for most women right up to the Second World War.

Her ideas for education would seem to have been largely taken up; the various education acts have seen to that.

The book as a whole is not terribly well structured and some of her sentences have a strange structure (even allowing for the Georgian period English), so you may find you have to read some sentences over again to grasp her meaning.

Jane Austen may have read this book, because contained therein are those immortal words "a good reputation once lost is lost for ever", as in Pride and prejudice. Serious students of Jane Austen need to read this book in conjunction with Fordyce's Sermons to Young Women to gain a full appreciation of the attitudes of the time.
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on 13 May 2010
This is not an easy read. The writing is often dated, referencing people and events that I'd never heard of but that the author assumes are familiar, the footnotes help some. The language itself is frequently confusing, M. Wollstonecraft can write straightforwardly on one topic, then on the next she will get carried away by flowery imagery and passionate but annoying rhetoric. Her use of irony (if that's what it is when she writes from the perspective of her contemporary detractors) is also confusing and sometimes ill judged. However the book has been introduced as a quickly written draft that M.W. was going to polish at some stage before her untimely death. The value and quality of the arguments themselves shine through, at the time of the books publishing women had no rights, no voice, and this book is fascinating in its perception and hope. Reading it now and hearing her hope that at some distant 'future' children may be educated for free by the government, that boys and girls may go to school together, that there might be a uniform! is proof of how different the world was in 1790, and how amazing M. Wollstonecraft was. Well worth the read.
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on 3 April 2005
I would expect a reputable publisher like Penguin to make it clear that what they are offering with this "great ideas" collection is *abridged* versions of the books. Get the Dover Thrift edition instead!
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on 24 April 2015
Wollstonecraft’s work is widely regarded as one of the cornerstones in the genesis of feminism. But why, exactly?

Well, firstly, it is an argument. This is very much a piece of opinion, rather like an extended editorial in a modern newspaper. It is almost all reason and very little evidence. It is invective, rhetorical and written with great verve. She begins with a rather surprising admission: that women are the weaker sex. I know many women who can run faster and longer than I and who would have little trouble beating me in an arm wrestle. I also know many who would dispute Wollstonecraft's claim.

She goes on to say that our entire society has progressed from this fairly innocuous factoid and drawn inferences from it that are unwarranted and incorrect, but that these form the educational and societal norms by which women are told that they are inherently different from the rest of humanity and therefore must suit different roles. This has been reinforced through education (or a lack thereof) and that something is needed to correct this unjust imbalance.

Her further analysis focuses on virtues. In her perception of society, some virtues are seen to desirable of men while a whole different sets of virtues were to be desirable of women. Wollstonecraft contends that the pursuit of virtue is inherently human and that the differences between the sexes are merely a matter of degree. In her crosshairs is the characteristic of coquettishness.

Her style of writing falls somewhere between the polemic and dialectic. The opening quarter of the book lays out the argument in summary with the remainder filling in the detail.

The book is not flawless though. Most notably, Wollstonecraft contends that that those who disagree with her position do so only because they are uneducated. Simple observation of feminists who are both highly educated and uneducated and non-feminists who are likewise educated and uneducated should be sufficient evidence to falsify this belief which persists as part of Wollstonecraft's legacy.

Yet that word of caution should not be taken as a rejection of the treatise of the Wollstonecraft's legacy as a whole. For something written in the 1790s, it comes across as a remarkably modern treatise, even if the vernacular hasn't aged all that well. So whilst I might question some of the detail, the overall argument is sound and well worth heeding. If you've not read it, then I would encourage you to do so.
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on 2 April 2015
This edition is missing the first chapter “The rights and involved duties of mankind considered”. If you are interested in Wollstonecraft Cambridge has published a great edition in 1995 edited by Sylvana Tomaselli witch also includes a very useful introduction, index, timeline, bibliographical note as well as to other Wollstonecraft texts.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0521436338/ref=cm_cr_ryp_prd_ttl_sol_1
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on 5 February 2015
Indeed this is a great book, and Mary Wollstonecraft must have been a truly extraordinary personality. In terms of style, I must say that I have already read more beautiful English, and also her main argument about women, that they would change their character, if they were liberated and educated, has, I believe, been refuted during the last 220 years, as women are still no more and no less frivolous and cunning today as in Wollstonecraft's time. Nevertheless, her observations about mankind generally, such as her analysis on how to acquire virtue, make her book an invaluable reading experience. I love her literary voice, and she says many things that should really be considered even, and perhaps particularly, today.
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on 5 February 2012
This book is truly marvellous. Wollstonecraft is a brilliant woman; I can honestly say this is one of the few books I've ever read which is 'life-changing.'
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on 16 May 2014
I would highly recommend this book as it makes a nice short read, it is however a difficult read as it is written in old English but don't let this put you off. Wollstonecraft hit's the nail on the head which proves her writings are still relevant today.
It's about time Wollstonecraft gets the recognition she deserves.
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