From Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer in the 1970s, let’s do a time travel of sorts, back in time to the 1790s, to have a glimpse into the life and works of Mary Wollstonecraft, mother of Mary Shelley!
This, her much popular seminal nonfiction text titled, A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1791), argues for the equality of women – and their right to education as much as men do!
Although there were bouquets galore for her text, there were brickbats as well! Walpole even went to the extent of calling her ‘a hyena in petticoats’! Yet in spite of these stinging remarks, she has rightly established herself as the godmother of modern feminism!
Interestingly, it was in the very same year that Thomas Paine had also published his book titled, Rights of Man (1791), in which he argues that popular political revolution is permissible if the ruling establishment fails to safeguard the natural rights of its people.
It should also be noted that, Mary Wollstonecraft had already written a pamphlet on a similar title, A Vindication of the Rights of Men, in a Letter to the Right Honourable Edmund Burke; Occasioned by His Reflections on the Revolution in France in 1790! This was a political pamphlet that strongly condemned aristocracy and advocated republicanism.
Well, Mary Wollstonecraft assumes significance to us all today, not only because she is a proto-feminist of sorts - pioneering the way for the liberation, freedom and the emancipation of women - but also because she’s been a guiding light and an inspiration for a generation of writers who adore her and respect her for her bold stance in favour of women’s education!
One such ardent enthusiast and fervent fan of Mary Wollstonecraft is present day celebrity writer and journalist, Bee Rowlatt!
She's much akin in temperament also, to Mary Wollstonecraft, who was a veteran traveller and a seasoned adventurer, who journeyed all the way up to Scandinavia accompanied only by her maid and baby daughter! Bee Rowlatt, a married mother of four, so inspired by Mary Wollstonecraft and her adventure-seeking way of life, decides to retrace her travels taking her own baby along! (Remember Jane Goodall!?)
It should be noted that, way back in the 18th century, when Mary Wollstonecraft set out on her travels, the situation was such that, it was almost next to impossible for a woman to travel anywhere she wished to, without a male to accompany her and to protect her, in an age and clime that was known for its overt patriarchal dictates! But still, inspite of these insurmountable oddities around her, Mary Wollstonecraft managed to make it, and even went ahead and penned down her travels for posterity, in a book titled, Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark! The book not only went on to become such a hot seller in a short matter of time, but also became a huge inspiration to a host of Romantic poets and writers!
Well, Bee with her baby boy follows in Mary’s footsteps, to seek and to find out the trigger that prompted Mary, the mommy, to move ahead on her travels, her musings on the people and places she had visited, to help gain a better knowledge and understanding of Mary Wollstonecraft and her relevance for us all today!
|Bee in Norway with her baby boy!|
Bee’s book is significantly titled, In Search of Mary and it’s subtitled, “The Mother of All Journeys”, and with a reason at that!
Bee, in an interview to her publishers, talks in detail about her first rendezvous with the works of Mary Wollstonecraft, when she was a student of literature! She had then taken to reading her book on her Scandinavian Travels and, right there, - she says, - she was hooked on the spot at the fearlessness and the gut instincts that acted the trigger for Mary to go ahead on her travels!
Following Mary Wollstonecraft’s footsteps to Norway, Bee is all praise and admiration for the Norwegians, calling them the freest people of Europe, and rates Norway today as among the fairest and best places to live! Although 216 years may have separated their journeys, Bee admits with a startled surprise that, they were both shocked by the price of Norwegian coffee!!!!! Ende deivameyyy!!!!!
On her favourite Mary Wollstonecraft quote, Bee says –
I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves.