Mary Wollstonecraft: The Pioneer of Revolution in Women’s Education and Womanhood

“I earnestly wish to point out in what true dignity and happiness consists, I wish to persuade women to endeavor to acquire strength, both of mind and body…and to show that elegance is inferior to virtue, that the first object of laudable ambition is to obtain a character as a human being regardless of the distinction of sex……”

Wollstonecraft belonged to an era which was tempered by seventeenth century English Philosopher John Locke’s revolutionary ideas and fervour. The spirit of radicalism was further empowered by French revolution which had as its stated ideals as liberty, equality, and fraternity. This phase of social and political turmoil pushed Wollstonecraft to come out with her political thinking and ideas regarding Women’s education and rights which were documented as “ Thoughts on the education of Daughters” followed by “ A Vindication of the Rights of Man” and “ A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” . Her works were more analytical which deals with the melancholy of social status of women, marked by debilitated education, no economic independence, and no career choice.  According to her, Women’s rights were to be seen not in the closet of their own but as a part of an ongoing movement for human upliftment and development. This should be seen in the context of the issue of human rights in general and for both men and women’s part of the revolution. She said that education is integral to the development of individual identity, to let the mind work freely irrespective of external impressions and associations. And this is essential in case of women when they had always been subjugated and hence more bound in an irrational way to first impressions. Their mind had always been tutored to please others, far from seeing the world in clear light of reasoning and understanding. She wrote: “Taught from their infancy that beauty is woman’s scepter, the mind shapes itself to the body, and, roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison”. Instead of being the slaves of domination and enforced opinions, women should develop their own thought process. They should have subsequent access to a career and business. Defective education of women is the cause of social and personal ills. She believed that educated and well-versed women are essential to our society since they nurture the future generation of the country. They can be seen as companions to their husbands rather than attractive docile figures meant for pleasure. To further nourish the concept of equality of education, she argued that schooling should be co-educational where education and knowledge should be imparted to children irrespective of their gender and demand of work in future. This approach will help to cultivate the general human thinking towards broader perspectives of life, be it granting the equal status to women in society. She also laid emphasis on educating children to reason rather than accepting the facts as presented. In fact, the groundwork for her revolution for women’s rights was prepared on the basis of reasoning and observation of ordinary life.

Through her works, Wollstonecraft became the pioneer of feminism.  She challenged the existing social norms and refused to accept it. Instead, she became the political voice for women’s right whose legacy crossed the borders of England and travelled across the globe that is live 200 years after her premature death.

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“CREATE THE MEMORIES THAT LAST FOREVER”

Life is a treasure of beautiful opportunities and blessings if we really seek to create one. And in the long run, these blessings add to some unforgettable memories in the chapters of our life.

Our World is beautiful and humanity is the greatest contribution, in an effort to save this beauty. I believe, volunteering injected this belief in me, in a far stronger way than I have always tried to apprehend this.

When I decided to volunteer for Lighthouse project (non-profit initiative) , I was sure that this will add to new learnings and experiences in my life.  But in actual when I really onboarded the journey, it was more than just an experience.

At the training session of the program, we all volunteers were provided with an envelope containing the details of our mentees. With a sense of responsibility, I joined this program. But, the moment I removed the form from the envelope, bright face of a very young girl in the passport size photo met my eyes. All of a sudden, the value and sensitivity of my commitment banged my head. A feeling that, this innocent face and kind smile needed all my sincere efforts. Later on, I came to know about her background and the background of other students as well. And certainly, moments like this, make me more humble and thankful towards almighty, instead of being a difficult child for him. Living in my own space has never been a big deal for me, this is something that I always took for granted. But this is a privilege to the uncountable population in our country. It is well said that the hardships and struggles of life carve strong character out of a human. The urge to come out of the darkness becomes so strong that it pushes to reach the heights which are a dream to many of us. Well, this was only day-1 but filled me with lots of inspiration and compassion.

One week later came the day 2 – Somewhere; it was in my head that it would be fun since it was an ice breaking session. And seriously, I believe that we (me and my mentee) melted all the gap between us and major contribution goes to the little girl who never let me feel that I was a new member in her world.  The sweet and kind smile was an indication of warm reception which made me comfortable to start our conversation.  As instructed, we were supposed to know about each other. I briefed her about me and then she started about herself. Well, forget about the hardships of her life, this is the thing which I knew very well before meeting her and evaluating her on the account of her hardships; I don’t think that child needs all these things to identify her.  Well, I told her about my profession and asked about her aspirations. Very energetically she declared “Didi, I want to be an archaeologist and a filmmaker”. Seriously, I was not prepared for this reply; we are so much used to the preconceived notion that anything out of the box surprises us; at least for me, it was quite an amazement. And very true to her aspiration, she was fond of history and arts. I really appreciate that a 13-year-old kid was able to neatly distinguish her likes and dislikes.Once done with a formal introduction, special activities were designed by lighthouse team to enforce the trust and warmth between the mentor and mentee pair. And that was real fun and I overjoyed the moment of sharing a very little part of my life with her. Life is long and, in comparison, the time which I am contributing to her is almost nothing. But these few hours were full of real laughter and fun that will remain with me forever.

I am anxiously looking for rest of the journey, and these blissful moments are going to leave some irreplaceable impressions in my life, which will continue to challenge me with its innocence.