Direct Comparison Between Mary Wollstonecraft And Virginia Woolf In Feminism
Mary Wollstonecraft is considered one of the founders of the feminist movement and philosophy. She wrote books for children, novels, history works, and in defence of the rights of both men and women alike. She was mostly famous for her book A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Published in 1792, she demands gender equality between men and women. She insists on giving women the right education in order to establish a society that isprosperous and just. She also talks about marriage and how it should be a fellowship rather than just mere marriage. She also replied angrily on books of the likes of John Gregory and Jean-Jacques Rousseau who encouraged depriving women educational opportunities similar to men. Although demanding women rights, Wollstonecraft does not deny that men are superior when it comes to physical strength and valour. A lot of that have to do with the fact that she lived in the 18th century.
Wollstonecraft wrote this book during the peak of the French Revolution, so clearly she was motivated with it, as the wind for change was sweeping throughout Europe, and hopefully, at that time, the change for the situation of women. In her book, Wollstonecraft rejects the idea of women being submissive and she not doesn’t want them to revolt against men, she just wants them to have power in themselves, to be able to seek independence and to have self-confidence that they can survive with their own personalities. She says “I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves”. She mocks and rejects the ideas of Rousseau who emphasizes that women should be only educated to be better domestically and in pleasure of men, saying that women are also human beings who have their own life and privacy. Both men and women granted power by God to endure all hardships and difficulties through life.
On the other hand, we have, Virginia Woolf, born in 1882, regarded one of the most prominent female writers and feminist advocate in the 20th century. She was encouraged writing by her father, whom death caused a mental breakdown for her. She was well-known for her novels, short stories, and criticism. She also wrote about the first world war, arguing that the patriarchy systems are always greedy for blood and destruction. Woolf is mainly known for her A Room of One’s Own, written in 1929, which is considered as a majorwritten work in feminist literary criticism. In this book, Woolf talks about the rights of women in general, and of female writers in particular. She states that a woman must have money and own room if she’s to be a writer. This is totally against the traditions at the time she was living. Women at that time were only busy with domestic affairs, cooking, and looking after her children and the pleasure of their father.
Writing with such condition is quite impossible no matter how talented the woman can be. She argues that there are many intelligent and talented women who didn’t get the chance to be successful writers because of their obligations to the house affairs. She depicts an imaginary sister of William Shakespeare, telling that what if he had a sister who was as smart as he? Would she get a chance to write? While being busy with house works? Would she have a room of her own? She says that what made Shakespeare a pioneer writer wasn’t his intelligence, it was the general circumstances that gave him space, wealth, and room to write. She says that even with a room of her own, a female writer would commit suicide at that time due to the pressure she would feel to be a female writer. Both Wollstonecraft and Virginia Woolf share a magnificent sort of similarity. They are both powerful when it comes to make a statement, for instance, Wollstonecraft says:
“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind”. And Woolf says: “If women be educated for dependence; that is, to act according to the will of another fallible being, and submit, right or wrong, to power, where are we to stop?”.
They both encourage support of knowledge and education for women. They both are ready challenge for that honourable cause. Also, they were both struggle for their cause in turning points events of the history of the world. Wollstonecraft being able to write about the rights of women during the peak of the French revolution. Same goes for Woolf, her book was written during the inter-war era where a new world has started to take shape. Women gaining more rights and freedom at that period of time with the most notably, the right to vote. When it comes to differences, the major difference between the two is their use of language. Woolf deploying personifications which was common during her era, the contemporary era and used less strict language. While on the other side, Wollstonecraft, affected by the Romantic poets during her time, used multiple emotional description in her book. Moreover, Woolf’s writing was less aggressive towards patriarchy since the limits on women’s rights were loosened at the beginning of the 20th century. Overall, Wollstonecraft saw that the independence of women first come through education, while Woolf, also calling for education, thought economic independency is very important for women to have freedom.
- Wollstonecraft, Mary. 1792. A Vindication of The Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects. London: Printed for J. Johnson.
- Woolf, Virginia. 1957. A Room of One’s Own. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1957.