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A Vindication of the Rights of Women

At the time of its publication in 1792, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, by Mary Wollstonecraft, was considered radical and revolutionary.  By the end of the year Joseph Johnson published a second edition.  An American edition of A Vindication of the Rights of Women appeared in Boston and Philadelphia, and a French translation appeared in Paris and Lyons.  A Vindication of the Rights of WomenAaron Burr admired  A Vindication of the Rights of Women and attempted to raise his own daughter according to its principles, although he complained in 1793 that he had "not yet met a single person who had discovered or would allow the merit of this book". Contemporary reactions to A Vindication of the Rights of Women ranged from shock to amusement to enthusiasm.  Despite a number of mean-spirited parodies, including A Sketch of the Rights of Boys and Girls and A Vindication of the Rights of Brutes, there is no doubt her book had a tremendous impact on British and American feminism.  Her argument that one must educate mothers so they may better raise their children would be echoed by the advocates of "Republican Motherhood" in the first years of the new American republic.

Mary Wollstonecraft's ideas in A Vindication of the Rights of Women were savagely attacked after her death, when the horrors of the French Revolution had convinced most Englishmen that all revolutionary theories were dangerous.  However, there is little doubt that her ideas live on, and like Rousseau's, still have an impact on education.  Public education, teaching by the exploitation of natural curiosity, practical applications, are all ideas descended from Rousseau and Wollstonecraft.  Most distinctive of these is Wollstonecraft's radical notion in A Vindication of the Rights of Women that women and men be educated together.

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