“Till Society be Differently Constituted, Much Cannot be Expected from Education”: Feminist Imaginings of Women’s Rights and Education in Wollstonecraft, Hays, Robinson, and Thelwall
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This project elucidates the connection between the philosophical treatises written by Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Hays, Mary Robinson, and John Thelwall in the 1790s advocating women’s rights and education and Wollstonecraft’s, Hays’, and Thelwall’s fictional imaginings of these possibilities in their novels. Through the fictional narratives of the female Bildungsroman genre, or the novel of education, these authors were able to imagine the possibilities discussed in the philosophical treatises of women’s education and rights within a patriarchal society. These imagined possibilities of an androgynous education and women’s emancipation envision educated women who can discuss philosophically and argue their own beliefs and place in patriarchal society. Through tracing each heroine’s formal and self-education journey, I will assess to what extent they are able to accomplish their goal of reforming patriarchal society through the reformation of the family.