Mary Wollstonecraft (English, 1759-1797) may be the single greatest influence on First Wave feminism in America and Europe. Having won praise from William Blake and other intellectuals for her scathing critiques of sex discrimination, slavery, and religious and governmental corruption in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), Wollstonecraft nonetheless endured public scorn for her Unitarian faith and for bearing her “illegitimate” daughter Fanny. Wollstonecraft died ten days after giving birth to her second daughter and namesake, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later Shelley). Like her mother’s posthumously published Maria, or the Wrongs of Women (1798), which details the “mental anguish” and “violent” effects of a chemical abortion, Mary
Shelley’s Frankenstein would famously warn against male domination of women and nature.
“Women becoming, consequently, weaker, in mind and body, than they ought to be, were one of the grand ends of their being taken into account, that of bearing and nursing children, have not sufficient strength to discharge the first duty of a mother; and sacrificing to lasciviousness the parental affection, that ennobles instinct, either destroy the embryo in the womb, or cast it off when born. Nature in everything demands respect, and those who violate her laws seldom do so with impunity.”
– From A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1972