MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT AND THE ENLIGHTENMENT
Professor Helen Irving, Faculty of Law
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
Lecture Theatre 101, New Sydney Law School Building, Eastern Avenue, Camperdown campus
6.30pm to 8.00pm (includes Q & A)
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) was the first theorist systematically to give voice to what we now call feminism. Her Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) was a radical account of the impact of limited education and subordination on women’s lives, built on Enlightenment theories of reason and human progress. Wollstonecraft was not an armchair radical, but lived a life of extraordinary daring and independence, dying tragically young after giving birth to her daughter (the writer, Mary Shelley). In this talk, Helen Irving explores Wollstonecraft’s life and her place in the English Enlightenment, and traces the enduring legacy of her ideas. Wollstonecraft, she argues, was right to insist not only that reason is vital to progress, but that progress rests on sexual equality. In this 250th anniversary year of her birth, she concludes, Wollstonecraft deserves to be better known and the Enlightenment better honoured.