Virginia Woolf concluded her 1929 essay on Mary Wollstonecraft by saying, “one form of immortality is hers undoubtedly: she is alive and active, she argues and experiments, we hear her voice and trace her influence even now amongst the living.”
In 1983 Cora Kaplan called Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman “the founding text of Anglo-American feminism.” In it, Wollstonecraft presents a carefully reasoned yet passionate argument for the equal education of women, equal treatment for women under the law, and an end to traditional notions of public and private relationships between women and men.
The issues that Wollstonecraft identified in 1792 continue to occupy feminists today: equal rights for women and LGBTQ people, sexual freedom including contraceptive and abortion rights, workplace equality and economic independence, and a re-visioning of private and public relationships between women and men, including the MeToo movement.
The project of the Mary Wollstonecraft and Feminist Literature Reading Group will be to trace Wollstonecraft’s influence historically and “even now among the living.” Readings will include classic feminist texts as well as the work of women writing today; work by LGBTQ writers and women of color will be included at every session.
This group meets on the fourth Monday of the month from September 2020 to May 2021, 5-7pm. Meetings will take place on Zoom until further notice.
Note: Everyone who reads this list will notice important works and writers I have left out. In fact, there is so much “Feminist Literature” to choose from that it was impossible to include even a fraction of it. As a result, this list is tentative and will be revised as participants make suggestions and new Feminist writing appears. In addition to the primary readings listed here, each participant will also receive a monthly email with historical notes and links to supplemental readings. Although the readings have been organized chronologically to provide an historical survey of modern Feminism, at any point we may choose to read something current and new.
Mon, September 28 | A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft, 1792
[I’m using the Third Norton Critical Edition (2009), which includes notes, historical context and criticism, but many other texts are available. Notes on the 18th century historical context and short selections from contemporary responses to Vindication will be emailed to participants in August.]
Mon, October 26 | Suffragists and Abolitionists, Part 1
Woman Suffrage and Politics: The Inner Story of the Suffrage Movement, a memoir by Carrie Chapman Catt and Nettie Rogers Shuler, 1923
Sojourner Truth, “On Women’s Rights,” (“Ain’t I a Woman”) 1851
[Access the speech at “The Sojourner Truth Project” website (https://www.thesojournertruthproject.com/) for fascinating information on the several different versions of the speech as well as videos of women reading the speech in its original upper New York state low-Dutch accent (which is not the southern African-American dialect version we usually hear and read).]
Slavery and the Woman Question, Lucretia Mott’s diary of her visit to Great Britain to attend the World Anti-Slavery Convention of 1840
Mon, November 23 | Suffragists and Abolitionists, Part 2
Woman in the 19th Century, Margaret Fuller, 1843
The Red Record, Ida B. Wells, 1895 (the result of her research on lynching during Reconstruction)
Mon, December 28 | Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf, 1938
January | No meeting this month
Mon, February 22 | The Second Sex, Simone DeBeauvoir, 1949
Mon, March 22 | The Feminist Mystique, Betty Friedan, 1963
Mon, April 26 | Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde, 1984
Gender Outlaw, Kate Bornstein, 1984
Mon, May 24 | Bad Feminist, Roxanne Gay, 2014
Feminism is for everybody, bell hooks, 2000
Mare Davis came to Feminism directly from the New Left after attending a conference on “Socialist Feminism” in the early spring of 1970; she has identified herself as a Feminist ever since. She earned a PhD in English from Kent State University, specializing in 19th Century British Literature and Romantic Poetry, writing her dissertation on the novelist George Eliot. These days she is interested in French, Spanish, and the practice and theory of translation.
This group is nearing completion. Fall 2021/Spring 2022 reading groups will be announced this summer, and registration will open in July/August. Participation is reserved for Athenæum members. If you have any questions, please email email@example.com.