Saturday, 25 April 2009


Mary Wollstonecraft was born 27 April 1759. Her tombstone stands near St Pancras Old Church on the banks of the River Fleet, where St Pancras International railway station now stands. Wollstonecraft, who wrote A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman, gave birth to Mary Shelley in nearby Somers Town on 30 August 1797, and died only days later, on 10 September 1797.

As Helen Irving recently noted, the assassination of Sitara Achakzai, a leading Afghan women's rights activist, was another tragic reminder that equality between the sexes is far from accepted in the world today.

"It was Wollstonecraft who gave the world the first sustained account of women's subordination and the means of combating it. Her 1792 work, A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman, is a vigorous defence of education for girls, equality in marriage, and women's right to work. Women, she argued, were enslaved not only by the laws and practices that defined them as the property of their fathers and husbands, but especially by the limited education they received.

Today, as an Englishwoman, Wollstonecraft would not have died (at 38, from childbirth) as she did. But such progress has not been felt everywhere. Maternal death rates in some parts of the world are shockingly high. In Australia the rate is among the world's lowest (about eight in 100,000 on recent data), but in sub-Saharan African one in 22 women will die in pregnancy or childbirth. In Afghanistan, it is one in 16. Neo-natal infant mortality is similarly elevated.

When we find ourselves tempted to romanticise tradition or apologise for customary practices that harm women, we should remember this, and give thanks to pioneers like Wollstonecraft. Long may she, and the women like Sitara Achakzai who have followed her, be remembered."

full article, SMH

Wollstonecraft Walk (with pictures)