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Mary Wollstonecraft

Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

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Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), Wollstonecraft is now regarded as one of the founders of modern British feminism. As a teacher she made a powerful case for emancipating and educating women. She was a member of the London-based radical intellectual circle that included Tom Paine and William Godwin, whom she later married. She welcomed the French Revolution and travelled to Paris where she witnessed Louis XVI going to the guillotine in 1793. Godwin's startlingly candid Memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft (1798) dominated the public perception of her for decades. The writer Mary Wollstonecraft is portrayed in this painting with the utmost simplicity. She wears a high-waisted white cotton gown while her plainly-styled hair is partially covered by a soft hat.

National Portrait Gallery, London



Mary Wollstonecraft




oil on canvas


H 76.8 x W 64.1 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bequeathed by Jane, Lady Shelley, 1899. On long-term loan to Dove Cottage & Wordsworth Museum, Cumbria

Work type



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Normally on display at

National Portrait Gallery, London

St Martin’s Place, London, Greater London WC2H 0HE England

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