[You’re Dead to Me] Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft 19/11/21 by BBC Radio 4

Web player: https://podcastaddict.com/episode/131492323

Episode: http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/6/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p0b4zl0v.mp3

Greg Jenner and his guests Dr Corin Throsby and Cariad Lloyd discuss the life and legacy of Mary Wollstonecraft. Mary was a successful ghostwriter, an advocate of human rights and a witty book critic who navigated the tumultuous ‘Reign of Terror’ in France, a treasure hunt and multiple heartbreaks. She is regarded by many as the ‘mother of feminism’, in large part due to her ground-breaking book, The Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

Research: Chris Wakefield and Rosanna Evans

Script: Emma Nagouse, Chris Wakefield and Greg Jenner

Project manager: Siefe Miyo

Edit producer: Cornelius Mendez

Listen Date: 3 to 4 January 2021


  • You’re Dead to Me is the history equivalent to The Infinite Monkey Cage, though with fewer participants: one historian and one comedian talk about the topic of the week, with the host being a bit of both. Plus, a quiz for the comedian!
  • So it turns out that Mary Wollstonecraft had a friend called Fanny Blood when she was growing up, and absolutely nobody could let go of the opportunity for juvenile humour throughout the episode.
  • Such a close friend in fact that Wollstonecraft named her first daughter Fanny.
  • The first daughter was not from James Godwin but a cheap guy from America who was selling American land to French nobility fleeing the revolution. On the one hand, gotta admire a guy who rips off the French nobility (though this is like the quote about robbing banks because that’s where the money is). On the other hand, it’s still skeezy.
  • This guy also got ripped off his own loot, so he sent Wollstonecraft to Sweden to try and recover it. To be noted: Wollstonecraft had to carry along the newborn Fanny while in the midst of postpartum depression that had led to a suicide attempt. Bro.
  • This is how we get Wollstonecraft’s letters from Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.
  • Apparently the first time Godwin met Wollstonecraft, it was at a dinner to meet Thomas Paine and Godwin got completely exasperated because Wollstonecraft dominated the conversation and never let Godwin get a word in.
  • Early on in life, Wollstonecraft had worked as a governess in Ireland where she despised her charge’s mother for wearing too much makeup and baby talking to her dogs. The brilliant thing is that she used to tick the mother off for it directly. The even more brilliant thing is that it took her a year to be fired for cheek. This has shades of Gussie Fink Nottle telling Tom Travers not to be a silly ass.
  • Apparently Godwin was heartbroken when Wollstonecraft died giving birth to Mary Shelley and published her biography to process his grief and then got surprised when the biography full of details of her being unmarried led to oppobrium for Wollstonecraft. Bro.
  • I learned that Wollstonecraft was taking on Burke with “A Vindication of the Rights of Men”. It’s there in the title, but I never noticed.
  • The guests had fun with how it’s a Vindication of the Rights of Men, but a Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

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