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Wollstonecraft, Mary.

Thoughts on the Education of Daughters.


Wollstonecraft, Mary. Thoughts on the Education of Daughters: With Reflections on Female Conduct, in The more important Duties of Life. London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1787.
12mo.; light water stains to front endpaper; contemporary tree calf, red morocco spine label stamped in gilt; tips lightly bumped; a beautiful, tight copy. In a quarter-morocco slipcase.
First edition of Wollstonecraft's exceptionally scarce first book, in many ways a precursor to her masterwork, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. "Unlike most of her contemporaries," the printer Johnson's bibliographer reflects, "Wollstonecraft did not assume that men and women should be taught different subjects in different ways. Both were to be taught to think, to cultivate a capacity for wit and judgment, to have their curiosity encouraged instead of repressed. In her little treatise she addressed the parents of girls, warning them that, as the world had no use for more empty-headed ornaments, strict attention must be paid to a daughter's education. Yet she was unprepared to lay blame or to explain the causes of this negligence" which had produced, to date, so many such ornaments, "though she was willing to point out examples where learning had stopped and tradition had taken over" (Joseph Johnson, by Tyson, p. 82). Ironically, Wollstonecraft used the ten guineas Johnson gave her for the book to pay off outstanding debts from her failed school at Newington Green.
Mary Wollstonecraft, novelist, essayist, and educational writer, was born in Spitalfields, London in 1759. Like many women of the day, she was largely self-taught. She spent her early years in rural England and Wales, her childhood and adolescence consumed by caring for her sickly mother. In the 1780s, Wollstonecraft, together with her sisters and her best friend Fanny Blood, opened a primary school at Newington Green. A few years later, prompted by the personal and financial worries which came with Blood's sudden death and the school's subsequent closure, Wollstonecraft turned to writing as a vocation, publishing her first work, Thoughts on the Education of Daughters, in 1787; Mary, her fictionalized memoir of her tragic friendship with Blood, was published the following year. As she developed intellectually, Wollstonecraft became more fully engaged with democracy, humanism, and other philosophical questions of the time. She wrote children's books and political articles, and translated a series of philosophical tracts by male European authors. As her masterwork, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), was several years off, Thoughts on the Education of Daughters provides the earliest look at her philosophy which, once fully defined, would establish her leadership of the burgeoning feminist movement. Windle A1a.
An uncommon book, quite possibly even rare. No copy in a contemporary binding has appeared in commerce for decades, and our informal survey of rare book dealers suggests that virtually no copies in any condition have traded hands in that period.

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