Critically acclaimed author Charlotte Gordon's newest book is Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley. Earlier works include Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Story of America's First Poet — a Massachusetts Honor book for non-fiction — and The Woman Who Named God: Abraham's Dilemma and the Birth of Three Faiths.
From her Q & A with Alison Nastasi at Flavorwire:
Both Marys had unconventional romantic and sexual relationships, but both women were married and a part of their legacy is dominated by the men they loved. Can you talk more about this and why they chose to pursue marriage despite their beliefs?Visit Charlotte Gordon's website.
Mary Wollstonecraft truly did not believe in marriage. She saw what had happened to abused wives — an older sister who was abused by her husband and a mother who was abused by her alcoholic father. In the 18th century and the 19th century, if you became a wife, you surrendered all your economic and legal rights to your husband. Anything you had was his. You were really rendered legally, economically, and politically powerless. Divorce was almost impossible without an act of Parliament. I think there were three divorces in the 18th century. You were trapped. Forget ethics, Mary Wollstonecraft thought marriage was a dangerous and oppressive institution. However, she also experienced first-hand what it was like to be an unmarried mother. So, with her first unconventional relationship — she didn’t marry the man — everyone thought she was married, and she wasn’t exiled for that. She was worried about what was going to happen to her little girl after she was abandoned. So when she falls in love with Mary’s father, William Godwin, who was also hugely against marriage, they decided they were going to have to compromise because they didn’t want the baby to be a social exile, especially since Mary had already been on the brink herself. They decided to get married. They were greatly ridiculed by all their radical friends. In the case of Mary Wollstonecraft, she did it to protect the child.
So, 16-year-old Mary Godwin, who will become Mary Shelley, sees herself as the carrier of her mother’s ethical principles. No way is she going to get married. But then...[read on]
My Book, The Movie: Romantic Outlaws.