Mary Wollstonecraft Quotes

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)

Mary Wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft. Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Image

Mary Wollstonecraft was a writer and philosopher, and one of the earliest feminist writers. Her book, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, is one of the most important documents in the history of women's rights.

Selected Mary Wollstonecraft Quotations

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

• My dreams were all my own; I accounted for them to nobody; they were my refuge when annoyed - my dearest pleasure when free.

• I earnestly wish to point out in what true dignity and human happiness consists. I wish to persuade women to endeavor to acquire strength, both of mind and body, and to convince them that the soft phrases, susceptibility of heart, delicacy of sentiment, and refinement of taste, are almost synonymous with epithets of weakness, and that those beings are only the objects of pity, and that kind of love which has been termed its sister, will soon become objects of contempt.

• Contending for the rights of women, my main argument is built on this simple principle, that if she be not prepared by education to become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of knowledge, for truth must be common to all, or it will be inefficacious with respect to its influence on general practice.

• Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will quickly become good wives; — that is, if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers.

• Make them free, and they will quickly become wise and virtous, as men become more so; for the improvement must be mutual, or the injustice which one half of the human race are obliged to submit to, retorting on their oppressors, the virtue of men will be worm-eaten by the insect whom he keeps under his feet

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

• 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?

• It is time to effect a revolution in female manners - time to restore to them their lost dignity - and make them, as a part of the human species, labour by reforming themselves to reform the world. It is time to separate unchangeable morals from local manners.

• 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.

• It is vain to expect virtue from women till they are in some degree independent of men.

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

• Women are systematically degraded by receiving the trivial attentions which men think it manly to pay to the sex, when, in fact, men are insultingly supporting their own superiority.

• Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience.

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

• It appears to me impossible that I should cease to exist, or that this active, restless spirit, equally alive to joy and sorrow, should be only 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.

• Children, I grant, should be innocent; but when the epithet is applied to men, or women, it is but a civil term for weakness.

• Taught from infancy that beauty is woman's sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.

• I love man as my fellow; but his scepter, real, or usurped, extends not to me, unless the reason of an individual demands my homage; and even then the submission is to reason, and not to man.

• ...if we revert to history, we shall find that the women who have distinguished themselves have neither been the most beautiful nor the most gentle of their sex.

• Love from its very nature must be transitory. To seek for a secret that would render it constant would be as wild a search as for the philosopher’s stone or the grand panacea: and the discovery would be equally useless, or rather pernicious to mankind. The most holy band of society is friendship.

• Surely something resides in this heart that is not perishable - and life is more than a dream.

• The beginning is always today.

More About Mary Wollstonecraft

About These Quotes

Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. Each quotation page in this collection and the entire collection © Jone Johnson Lewis. This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not be able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.