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Discuss and critically appraise how personal experience informed the political thought of Mary Wollstonecraft

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Introduction

Discuss and critically appraise how personal experience informed the political thought of Mary Wollstonecraft Mary Wollstonecraft has been seen to be the founder of feminism, with radical ideas in terms of education, marriage and female emancipation. However it is necessary to consider what shaped those ideas, which lead to the emergence of feminism. It is necessary to consider what circumstances events and ideas circulating at the time influenced the politic thoughts of Mary Wollstonecraft. In order to understand what formed the basis of Mary's thoughts we will need to identify their thoughts in the context of a number of factors. Mary's ideas could be regarded as liberal feminism. Her ideas focused mainly around the individual woman and her rights. Her proposals were mainly for women's equality with men. Mary believed women should be treated like men and placed a lot of focus around women's education as being inferior to men's when in fact women were as intellectual as men and therefore should have a more equal education. Her reasoning for this was based around the idea that women need to be well educated to be successful mothers. ...read more.

Middle

Mary believed that women needed freedom as they were being dominated by male patriarchy and in this sense were open to abuse by males. It seems apparent that the above ideas and assertions on male abuse and dominance of women stemmed from her own life experiences and those of her female relations as she witnessed male abuse to family around her; As a young girl Mary used to be subjected to witnessing her fathers drunken violence against her mother. By viewing her mothers abuse and helplessness Mary came to realise the lack of protection available to women. Her past experiences of her and her family may have also influenced her views on relations with males including marriage. In a letter to George Blood in 1789 Mary describes marriage as "legal prostitution"6. Mary had witnessed cruelty of men to her mother, sister and friend fanny in their marriages. She believed that her sister condition of ill health was due to the mistreatment of her husband; she took steps to help Eliza arrange legal separation. "On three different occasions Mary did see the lives of women ruined by cruel dissipated, husbands" (Bouten 1922:131). ...read more.

Conclusion

"Hers was hatred of creatures that seemed capable of doing everything while women seemed to her capable to her of doing nothing"13 They therefore argue her feminist thoughts arose out of her illness of being neurotic and compulsive.7 However it could be argued that Freudian analysis is subjective and therefore has no objective basis for explaining reasoning for Wollstonecraft's political ideas. Overall it is clear Mary had many painful experiences and experiences of social changes in her life, which helped shape her political views. Therefore it can be attained that personal factors influenced political thought, although it also has to be taken into account that her political thought was also influenced by outside factors such as social change and institutions such as religion. This coincides with concept of the "personal is political" where the experience of our personal lives are defined by broader political settings. To feminism personal experience such as that encountered by Mary can be seen as a valid way of knowing the social world and deriving political thought. However it could be argued that the experiences of Mary didn't provide a sufficient claim of truth, as it doesn't necessarily mean that Mary has political insight. Therefore it could be said that this isn't the most objective way to gain an insight into the political sphere of society. ...read more.

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