One of the forerunners of feminism is in the persona of Mary Wollstonecraft, writer of Vindication of the Rights of Women, a book that made the pages of history since it was the one of the firsts that marked the beginning of feminism. In fact, she is known to be the “mother of feminism. ” Wollstonecraft was born in 1759 in Spitalfields, London to a handkerchief weaver. Her beliefs on feminism began at early age, when she sees her brother always being favoured by her father and in turn, protects her mother from her father’s tyranny.
Because of this, she gained independence and decided never to marry. During her time, it is not common for women to desire these things. In fact, during her time, it is widely-believed that the only goal of women is to marry and have children. She worked as a governess for several years but at the tender age of 25, she realized that her intelligence and ambitions cannot be fulfilled through this. At that early age, she has established a school together with her sister Eliza and friend Fanny Blood. The school was dedicated to teach women about their rights.
This was when she realized that most women at that time believed and were enslaved by their total submission to their husbands. This drove her to write Thoughts on the Education of Girls (1787) where she argued that women should also be entitled the right for education because they are also intellectually capable as their men counterparts (Kemerling, 2006). In 1792 she published her famous work A Vindication of the Rights of Woman which is an extension of her previous works. This work won her the following of many radical and educated women who later on were the predecessors of Wollstonecraft’s belief in feminism.
Her conviction never to marry was, however, swayed in March 1979, when she married William Godwin. She died on September 10, 1797 due to a placenta that remained in her womb after she gave birth to a baby. First Wave Feminist: Eleanor Marx On January 16, 1855, Karl Marx’s wife gave birth to their youngest daughter who would later on follow his footsteps. She was named Eleanor. Her intelligence made her her father’s favorite and was privileged to be taught first-handedly by her own father. At sixteen, she was always seen accompanying her father to international conferences on socialism.
At seventeen, she declared her independence because of her father’s disapproval of her marriage to Hippolyte Lissagaray, a French journalist twice her age. To further prove her independence she helped Lissagaray in writing the History of the Commune of 1871. She showed the work to his father who liked it and later on translated it to English, but still did not get her father’s approval. Just as when her father approved their marriage, Eleanor began to have doubts in their relationship who soon decided to end their long-term engagement in 1882.
Two years later, she fell in love again with Edward Aveling who shares her views on politics and religion (Simkin). She, later on, became Aveling’s common law wife. The same year, the couple joined the Social Democratic Foundation (SDF) of Hyndman. Because of her talent in oration, she became an SDF executive. However, she soon found out Hyndman’s dictatorial ways of running the foundation and left the organization to start a new party called the Socialist League. Her conviction to feminism began when she campaigned for a female candidate in the London School Board.
A year after her successful organization of the International Socialist Congress in Paris, she met Clementina Black and joined her in establishing the Women’s Trade Union League. That same year, she wrote The Women Question along with many other works and translations. In 1898, Aveling fell seriously ill and Eleanor took care of him. However, her whole life ended up in tragedy when she found out that Aveling secretly married another woman which drove her to commit suicide on March 31, 1898.