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Mary Wollstonecraft

  • Nothing, I am sure, calls forth the faculties so much as the being obliged to struggle with the world.

    • Mary Wollstonecraft,
    • "Matrimony," Thoughts on the Education of Daughters ()
  • The more equality there is established among men, the more virtue and happiness will reign in society.

  • Age demands respect; youth, love.

  • ... virtue can only flourish among equals ...

  • ... no man chooses evil, because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.

  • The birthright of man ... is such a degree of liberty, civil and religious, as is compatible with the liberty of every other individual with whom he is united in a social compact.

  • A war, or any wild-goose chase is, as the vulgar use the phrase, a lucky turn-up of patronage for the minister, whose chief merit is the art of keeping himself in place.

  • Women all want to be ladies, which is simply to have nothing to do, but listlessly to go they scarcely care where, for they cannot tell what.

  • The absurd duty, too often inculcated, of obeying a parent only on account of his being a parent, shackles the mind, and prepares it for a slavish submission to any power but reason.

  • Standing armies can never consist of resolute robust men; they may be well-disciplined machines, but they will seldom contain men under the influence of strong passions, or with very vigorous faculties.

  • Society can only be happy and free in proportion as it is virtuous.

  • A slavish bondage to parents cramps every faculty of the mind.

  • Till women are more rationally educated, the progress in human virtue and improvement in knowledge must receive continual blocks.

  • The two sexes mutually corrupt and improve each other.

  • From the respect paid to property flow, as from a poisoned fountain, most of the evils and vices which render this world such a dreary scene to the contemplative mind.

  • Men and women must be educated, in a great degree, by the opinions and manners of the society they live in. In every age there has been a stream of popular opinion that has carried all before it, and given a family character, as it were, to the century. It may then fairly be inferred, that, till society be differently constituted, much cannot be expected from education.

  • Love, from its very nature, must be transitory.

  • The divine right of husbands, like the divine right of kings, may, it is to be hoped, in this enlightened age, be contested without danger ...

  • ... what a weak barrier is truth when it stands in the way of an hypothesis!

  • Independence I have long considered as the grand blessing of life, the basis of every virtue.

  • ... how can a rational being be ennobled by anything that is not obtained by its own exertions?

  • It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world!

  • I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.

  • Women ought to have representatives, instead of being arbitrarily governed without having any direct share allowed them in the deliberations of government.

  • The most perfect education ... is such an exercise of the understanding as is best calculated to strengthen the body and form the heart. Or, in other words, to enable the individual to attain such habits of virtue as will render it independent.

  • People thinking for themselves have more energy in their voice, than any government, which it is possible for human wisdom to invent; and every government not aware of this sacred truth will, at some period, be suddenly overturned.

  • Every political good carried to the extreme must be productive of evil ...

  • It is the preservation of the species, not of individuals, which appears to be the design of Deity throughout the whole of nature.

  • I cannot bear to think of being no more — of losing myself — though existence is often but a painful consciousness of misery; nay, it appears to me impossible that I should cease to exist, or that this active, restless spirit, equally alive to joy and sorrow, should only be organized dust — ready to fly abroad the moment the spring snaps, or the spark goes out, which kept it together. Surely something resides in this heart that is not perishable — and life is more than a dream.

  • We reason deeply when we forcibly feel.

  • ... executions, far from being useful examples to the survivors, have, I am persuaded, a quite contrary effect, by hardening the heart they ought to terrify. Besides the fear of an ignominious death, I believe, never deterred anyone from the commission of a crime, because, in committing it, the mind is roused to activity about present circumstances.

  • I am more and more convinced that the same energy of character which renders a man a daring villain would have rendered him useful to society, had that society been well organized.

  • Men with common minds seldom break through general rules. Prudence is ever the resort of weakness; and they rarely go as far as as they may in any undertaking, who are determined not to go beyond it on any account.

  • I begin to love this little creature, and to anticipate his birth as a fresh twist to a knot, which I do not wish to untie.

    • Mary Wollstonecraft,
    • letter to husband William Godwin ()
  • Life cannot be seen by an unmoved spectator.

    • Mary Wollstonecraft,
    • in Ruth Benedict, "Mary Wollstonecraft" (1917), An Anthropologist at Work: Writings of Ruth Benedict ()
  • I wish you, from my soul, to be riveted in my heart, but I do not desire to have you always to my elbow.

    • Mary Wollstonecraft,
    • letter to her husband (1798), in Janet M. Todd, ed., The Collected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft ()
  • For years I have endeavored to calm an impetuous tide — laboring to make my feelings take an orderly course — it was striving against the stream.

    • Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Virtue can only flourish amongst equals.

  • I think I love most people best when they are in adversity; for pity is one of my prevailing passions.

    • Mary Wollstonecraft,
    • letter to George Blood (1785), in Janet M. Todd, ed., The Collected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft ()

Mary Wollstonecraft, English writer, philosopher, women's rights advocate

(1759 - 1797)

Full name: Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin.