For this week’s writing prompt, I decided to write a dialogue between Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter, Mary Shelley. And if I’m being honest, executing such a feat at a more profound level could very well take weeks, if not months. These women have such unique and daring histories and stories and are each audacious and brilliant as individuals. Although they do also have so many similarities that it’s easy to get their legacies and stories confused sometimes. But since I’m only requiring myself to write a draft, for now, I will do my best to imagine only one of what would surely have been many unique exchanges between these two women… if only Mary Wollstonecraft would have lived to see her baby girl grow into a woman.
As I mentioned in an earlier post this week, I’m reading Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft & Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon to help me complete this writing prompt. And it has certainly come in handy. I am getting so much insight into how these women thought and the things they did when they were around the same age. Sometimes it does seem as if they are the same woman, which is likely because Mary Shelley worshipped her mother and read her work religiously. They also both experienced poverty and unconventional educations and unique living situations and travels. And most importantly, they were not shy about taking their lives into their own hands.
As I read more about each Mary, I wonder, would Mary Shelley have been different and perhaps not idolized her mother as much had she lived? Perhaps she would have been rebellious, or thought her mother a bit pedantic at times? It is difficult to determine this because Mary Wollstonecraft took charge of her younger sisters’ lives in many aspects as if they were her daughters and never really asked them what they wanted, although they did seem to only care about trivial things most of the time and had no desire to forge their own ways in the world. Yet she treated her close female friends with great affection and admiration. And she had quite a revolutionary way of thinking about how girls and women should be educated, requiring her own students to use their reason and think for themselves and even exercise vigorously (which young women were not encouraged to do at the time). So I wonder…how would young Mary have responded to her mother’s instruction?
Ultimately, I think that these two women would have gotten along quite well because Mary Wollstonecraft would have valued her daughter’s sense of self and fortitude. And Mary Shelley would have been a willing pupil and eager to learn from her mother. Both women were also loving and affectionate with those that were close to them, which would have helped them forge a close relationship with each other.
I still have a lot left to read and a lot more to consider when writing an imagined dialogue between these two formidable women. But right now, I do still think the dialogue would resemble a Socratic dialogue, but with more affection and quite a few elements and phrases that are indicative of the Romanticism and revolutions swirling around them at the time.
The more I read about these two women, the more questions I collect that I want to ask them. I’m going to rely on their stories, writing, and the questions I’m collecting, to write my draft. I hope to have it posted to the blog tomorrow. Subscribe below to get a notification sent to your inbox.
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