Becoming Mary Wollstonecraft: Vive la Révolution!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERANancy Means Wright has published 14 books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry,
including 5 adult mystery novels (St. Martin’s Press), a novella (Worldwide Library), a YA novel (E.P. Dutton), an historical novel, Midnight Fires (forthcoming in ’10 from Perseverance Press); and two mysteries for young people, The Pea Soup Poisonings won the ’06 Agatha Award for Best Children’s/YA Novel, and The Great Circus Train Robbery was an ’08 Agatha Award finalist. Her poems & short stories have appeared in numerous magazines, including American Literary Review, Seventeen, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Level Best Books et al.; and in numerous anthologies. A longtime teacher, actress-director, Bread Loaf Scholar for a first novel, Wright lives with her spouse and two Maine Coon cats on a dirt road in the environs of Middlebury, Vermont.

Back in the days when women were beginning to gather in small angry groups and refuse to just stay home and make babies, I married and went with my husband to teach at a boys’ boarding school in New Hampshire. I had already taught English for two years, but the headmaster said if a woman wanted to teach at all in his school, it would have to be typing or remedial reading. So much for women’s lib!

So I taught reading and made the best of it. Then luckily, through a Unitarian women’s group, I discovered Wollstonecraft and at once declared a sisterhood. We had both left our homes at an early age—Mary at nineteen, and I at twelve when my father died, leaving my mother with no insurance—she hustled us off to a girls’ boarding school. But I loved both studies and the sports—something Mary advised. “A female should cultivate mind and body,” she insisted in a day when women might spend up to four hours getting dressed and coifed, starting with the whalebone corset-like “stay” that literally warped the body.

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