Mary Wollstonecraft: A Revolutionary Life by Janet Todd - review by Kathryn Hughes

Kathryn Hughes

Now It Can Be Told

Mary Wollstonecraft: A Revolutionary Life


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 474pp £20 order from our bookshop

Mary Wollstonecraft turns out to have been the kind of person that gives women a bad name. A moaner, manipulative, and bossy as hell, she managed to annoy pretty much everyone with whom she came into contact. The evidence has always been there, but it is only now, after twenty-five years of ‘Girls’ Own’ history writing, that Janet Todd feels able to tell the inconvenient truth.

Wollstonecraft’s chief disqualification as a feminist heroine lies in her relationships with men. Far from being their autonomous equal, she was needy, nagging and, to cap it all, badly dressed. In letters to her lover, Gilbert Imlay, she begs for a corner of his heart and then, sensing rejection, spits

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