Mary Wollstonecraft: feminist writer. 27.4.1759, 13:05. London.
Mary Wollstonecraft who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792 was a radical feminist philosopher and author. Having seen her mother’s abusive marriage to her drunk, violent father, she chose to go her own way and support herself by her writing. Inspired by the tumult of the French Revolution, her books called for women to be treated fairly. One of her arguments was that women should be educated in a rational manner, this countered the prevailing belief that women were too sensitive to have rational thought, but that they should be trained to be the companion and helpmate of men.
‘”my main argument is built on this simple principle, that if [women] be not prepared by education to become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of knowledge and virtue; for truth must be common to all’ and that women were subject to ‘a false system of education, gathered from the books written on this subject by men who [consider] females rather as women than human creatures’ And that empty headed women are only so because they are denied education.
Mary was both Sun and Moon in Taurus with Mercury in Taurus conjunct her Midheaven. Her fiery Mars in Aries in the ninth house of philosophy closely square expansive Jupiter in Capricorn, shows someone who will go their own way irrespective of public opinion and will show a fearlessness (Aries) in the face of set-backs and difficulties. Uranus the planet of revolutions was not discovered until 1781. Uranus (named after the castrated sky god Ouranos) was deemed to rule revolution because the time of its discovery coincided with the French Revolution (1789-1799), the American Revolution (1765-1783) and the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804).
Mary was excited by the French Revolution, its overthrowing the old order she had written against in the Vindication of the Rights of Men (29.11.1790). Jupiter was coming to the opposition to her natal Uranus (28’ Virgo) and Saturn was conjunct her Uranus (29’ Pisces). Wollstonecraft called the French Revolution a ‘glorious chance to obtain more virtue and happiness than hitherto blessed our globe’. She defended the women who had marched the French Royal family from Versailles to Paris,(and ultimately to their deaths). Burke had called them,
‘furies from hell, in the abused shape of the vilest of women’. Mary responded,
‘Probably you [Burke] mean women who gained a livelihood by selling vegetables or fish, who never had any advantages of education’.
The book made her famous and was followed by the Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) when Jupiter opposed her fiery Mars which rules her fourth house of endings and the ninth of philosophy. In the book Mary laid out her arguments for educating women and not treating then as mere chattels of men. It was well received as revolutionary fervour was spreading to England. Fired up with revolutionary zeal, Mary travelled to Paris in December 1792 to see events first hand. Unfortunately (or predictably) the struggle descended into factions fighting each other and many of her friends were executed.
In a March 1794 letter to her sister Everina, Wollstonecraft wrote:
‘It is impossible for you to have any idea of the impression the sad scenes I have been a witness to have left on my mind … death and misery, in every shape of terrour, haunts this devoted country—I certainly am glad that I came to France, because I never could have had else a just opinion of the most extraordinary event that has ever been recorded.’ The fearlessness of Mars in Aries.
Imlay concerned for Mary’s safety, told his embassy that they had married, which gave her automatic American citizenship and some protection (by this time the French and British were at war). When Paris became too dangerous, Mary, pregnant by then, moved to Le Havre and wrote A Historical View of the French Revolution (1794). The book cemented her renown and was published when Saturn was conjunct her Midheaven and Jupiter was conjunct her natal Pluto (ruler of the IC).
Wollstonecraft argued that the revolution arose from a set of social, economic and political conditions that left no other way out of the crisis that gripped France in 1789.
Mary was writing to support herself as Imlay would periodically disappear leaving her destitute. On 14th of May 1794 she gave birth to Fanny (Fanny’s Sun was conjunct her MC).
‘Nothing, I am sure, calls forth the faculties so much as the being obliged to struggle with the world; ’ Thoughts on the Education of Daughters (1787).
In August 1794 she returned to London to try and reconcile with Imlay. Her attempts at reconciliation failed and in May 1795 she tried to commit suicide by poisoning but was rescued by Imlay.
In a final attempt to save their relationship in 1795 Mary travelled to Sweden to do business for Imlay taking one year old Fanny and a nurse. During her three month long trip she explored the countries and wrote down her philosophical ideas in Letters written during a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Some consider this her finest book. It was a success and helped to pay off her debts, and ran into two editions, translated into German, Dutch, Swedish and Portuguese and published in America. Uranus was transiting her Ascendant, which showed a radical transformation of her public persona.
In 1796 Jupiter was conjunct her Saturn, bringing home the need to break free from the past and free herself from her unsatisfactory lover. The ruler of her fifth house is Saturn in Pisces (the home of lost causes) found in the seventh house of marriage. Mary, despite her politics was devastated her affection was not returned.
Returning from Sweden, Mary tried to drown herself in the Thames but was rescued by a passer-by. Neptune was transiting her Sun, her despair overwhelmed her.
Eventually, Mary recovered and returned to her former life. She developed a relationship with radical philosopher Godwin. When she fell pregnant again, they married, and for a brief time it was a happy marriage. Tragically, she died from puerperal fever, ten days after giving birth to her daughter (later Mary Shelley) .
Mary was a woman way before her time. She lived in the time of revolution, which she hoped would give women access to education and some dignity in their lives, but it proved a disappointment. Her courage to go it alone at a time when women had few freedoms, was immense. She lived a life on her own terms and was celebrated in her lifetime for her ideas, but her unconventional relationships were controversial. Because of her ‘immorality’ her works were forgotten until the early 20th century, when feminists re-discovered them. Sadly, it would be many years before Mary’s dreams became a reality and of course in some parts of the world still today, women’ education is a battle ground.