February 13th

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Author: Eileen Hunt Botting


  1. In chapter seven of the Rights of Woman, what is Mary Wollstonecraft’s definition of true modesty? 
  2. Who does Wollstonecraft cite as exemplars of modesty and why?
  3. What is her critique of the understanding of modesty upheld in her time?
  4. How is this false notion of modesty encouraged by bad educational practices?
  5. Can sex education be conducted in a “modest” fashion?
  6. How would her ideal educational system shape genuine modesty?
  7. Why is modesty a crucial virtue for her to redefine?  How does she use her redefinition of modesty to underscore the moral significance of her theory of human nature?
  8. How can we relate her notion of modesty to contemporary debates about the relationship between the sexes?
  9. In chapter nine of the Rights of Woman, what is Wollstonecraft’s understanding of “the unnatural distinctions established in society?”   How do considerations of class, gender, and race inflect her views on this subject?
  10. How are her views on this subject similar to and different from Rousseau in his First and Second Discourses?
  11. What are some of the moral implications of Wollstonecraft’s comparison of women to slaves and soldiers? (235-36)
  12. How do you interpret the tone and intent of this passage:  “I may excite laughter, by dropping a hint, which I mean to pursue, some future time, for I really think that women ought to have representatives, instead of being arbitrarily governed without having any direct share allowed them in the deliberations of government.” (237)
  13. What kinds of professions does Wollstonecraft encourage women to enter? (238-9)
  14. How do you read Wollstonecraft’s blending of the traditional discourse of women’s domesticity with the emerging discourse on women’s rights? (240-41)
  15. How does Wollstonecraft’s long break-up with Imlay seem to affect, if at all, her views on love, sex, marriage, family, class, and commerce?
  16. How does Wollstonecraft’s journey to Scandinavia function as a metaphor for her own spiritual descent and re-ascent during this period in her life?
  17. Do Wollstonecraft’s two suicide attempts compromise her in any way? 
  18. How do you see the suicide attempts and her depression as relating to her spiritual life and religiosity?
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