chapter  1
A Feminist Republican
Pages 18

Sometime in the winter of 1789 Mary Wollstonecra (1759-97) wrote in a letter to her publisher and friend Joseph Johnson that ‘While I live, I am persuaded, I must exert my understanding to procure an independence , and render myself useful’.1 is brief remark, squeezed in between an expression of gratitude to Johnson for his assistance and a request for a German grammar, tells us a good deal about Wollstonecra ’s attitude to life, to society and to morality. It is a duty of the human person to make herself useful to others and it is a goal in the life of an enlightened being to make oneself independent. Neither of these things can be achieved or even attempted without a struggle, without consistent exertion of the faculties of body and mind . e ‘independence’ to which Wollstonecra refers in this letter is the hard-won capacity to support oneself without having to rely on friends or creditors – which is slightly ironic considering that she was more or less constantly in debt to Johnson .