The Mother of Feminism: A Contemporary Wollstonecraft?Mary Wollstonecraft, The Vindications: The Rights of Men, The Rights of Woman. Eds. D. L. Macdonald and Kathleen Scherf. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 1997. ISBN: 1-55111-088-1. Price: US$12.95.[Record]

  • Graham Allen

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  • Graham Allen
    University College Cork

D. L. Macdonald's and Kathleen Scherf's edition of Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Men and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (both texts based on the second editions) is a welcome addition to Broadview Presss developing list of Romantic and Victorian texts. Broadview, in their Literary Texts series, seek, as they put it in their publicity material, to contribute to the "ever-changing canon of English literature from new angles". What this translates into, of course, is a particular committment to publishing canonical and non-canonical work by women authors. Although Wollstonecraft's major political works are available in a number of editions and formats, the editors have taken the opportunity provided by the Broadview Literary Texts series to present those works alongside a number of their most significant contexts. Along with the editors' introduction and extensive footnotes, Macdonald and Scherf include useful appendices and bibliographies. Appendix A, which covers "The Revolutionary Moment", places Price's A Discourse on the Love of our Country , extracts from Burke's Reflections , and the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Men and Women alongside Olympe de Gouges' The Rights of Woman (1791) and the slave narrative which Wollstonecraft herself reviewed in The Analytical Review, The Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African, Written by Himself. Appendix B gives the reader the chance to read Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman alongside texts which influenced her discussion of education in that work; extracts from Talleyrand's Rapport sur linstruction publique and Catherine Graham Macaulay's Letters on Education make up this section. Appendix C follows Todd and Butler's Pickering edition by republishing the "Hints" to the projected second part of the Vindication of the Rights of Woman first published by William Godwin in the fourth volume of Wollstonecraft's Posthumous Works. Finally, Appendix D usefully collects up a series of contemporary reviews of the two texts, including the lengthy critique of the A Vindication of the Rights of Woman from the Critical Review nos. 4 and 5, 1792. The contextual materials collected in here should make this edition at least as popular in student booklists as the best of the previously available paperback editions. One can, of course, always quibble about exclusions and inclusions in such an edition, and it is not always clear upon what basis notes on the texts are provided or not provided; however, Broadview's and the editors' commitment to producing scholarly editions which are also truly useful to and adaptable within a teaching environment is very welcome. Indeed, the editors go out of their way in their introduction to stress the need to make Wollstonecraft's work "more accessible", to recognize that "Wollstonecraft is an author whose life and work still speak to women and men today" (p.7), and to present editions which "make the essentially dialogical quality of her work accessible to modern readers" (p.26). Macdonald and Scherf make some suggestions as to the kinds of issues to which Wollstonecrafts work still speaks. At one point they discuss contemporary charges that Wollstonecrafts second Vindication had "unwittingly subjected the radical cause to a reductio ad absurdum" (p.14) thus moving from the "rights of man" to the rights of children and even of "brutes". One of the contemporary parodies of Wollstonecraft's position (attributed to Thomas Taylor) was entitled A Vindication of the Rights of Brutes , and Macdonald and Scherf employ these attacks to establish Wollstonecraft and Gouges as founding contributors to modern day "well-organized movements for the rights of children and animals". (p.15) The foregrounding of the importance of children within Wollstonecrafts work is, of course, extremely …