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Mary Wollstonecraft 

"I am then to be the first of a new genus - I tremble at the attempt yet if I fail - I only suffer..."

So wrote the iconic Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) in a letter to her sister on November 7, 1787. Mary had just moved back to London after having been fired from her job as a governess to the three eldest daughters of the wealthiest family in Ireland for being too progressive. Five years later, Wollstonecraft penned A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. 

 

Today, many historians consider her the world's first feminist.

In her writing, Mary Wollstonecraft called to attention the disparities in education between boys and girls and the way women were denied the same economic opportunities men enjoyed. At the time, she was both admired and scorned for her audacity.

 

Yet her words live on well after her death and inspired women's movements around the globe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, demonstrating the impact of a single person's actions. She remains a relevant figure in the twenty-first century as women continue to look to her as a role model for equity, as evidence by this statue erected in her honor as recently as 2020. 

Which is why Mastro chose to write about Mary Wollstonecraft, the protagonist in her debut novel, Solitary Walker: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft

Raised in an abusive home, Mary Wollstonecraft swears she will never marry, knowing it would subject her to a man’s rule. Instead, she is determined to make her own way in the world. After being fired from her job as a governess for her liberal views regarding girls’ education, she decides to make a living by her pen and moves to London. In time, she is successful in her quest to become a writer. When she calls for women to enjoy greater rights and opportunities in her book A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, she achieves international acclaim.

Meanwhile, during Mary’s rise to fame, the French Revolution breaks out. The Revolution brings her close to Henry Fuseli, a married London artist. Together, they translate news coming out of France. When she realizes she has feelings for Fuseli, she escapes to Paris to report on the Revolution.

In Paris, a whole new world awaits Mary. She meets American adventurer Gilbert Imlay. Still intent on staying single but no longer willing to deny herself love, she begins an affair with him. When she finds herself pregnant, however, her newfound happiness unravels. Imlay is not who he says he is, and he leaves Mary stranded and alone.

The punishment for being an unwed mother in the eighteenth century is harsh. Mary must now fight to protect her personal and professional reputation or lose her financial independence. At the same time, she is desperate to ensure the legitimacy of her child.

 

A Solitary Walker takes place in London, Paris at the height of the French Revolution, and in Scandinavia's rugged terrain and will be published by Black Rose Writing on February 20, 2025.  

Educational Writings

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