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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born on August 30, 1797, in London,

England. She was destined to live an extraordinary life. Her parents were

two of the most noted freethinkers of the Enlightenment era. Her father,

William Godwin, was a celebrated philosopher and historian. He was known

for overeating and borrowing money who would give him a loan. He didn't

have much time for anything but his philosophical ideas. He met his match

in Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary's mother. She was every bit as much a radical

thinker as Godwin. She declared herself independent at the age of 21. She

and her sisters ran a school in France, where she had an affair with an army

captain and had her first child, Fanny, out of wedlock. After being

abandoned, she and Fanny moved back to England and attempted suicide.

She began writing. She was well-known for her revolutionary feminist

writings. Wollstonecraft and Godwin met a dinner party at Godwin's home

and the two began an affair. Wollstonecraft was five months pregnant when

she married Godwin. Although Godwin and Wollstonecraft didn't agree with

the whole marriage thing, they wanted Mary's children to be legitimate

children. Mary's mother died of complications just ten days after Mary was

born. Her father was a self-absorbed intellectual and was left to take care of

his daughters all alone. Although he loved his daughters, the responsibility of

raising them on his own was too much for him and soon began looking for a

wife.

Godwin married four years later to Mary Jane Clairmont. She turned

out to be a mean and shallow woman who favored her own two children over

Mary and Fanny. Mary was a lively child and was often treated unfairly by

her stepmother. She received frequent whippings which led to her rebellion

of a girl's traditional role. As a result of this, Mary kept to herself and was

unhappy and alone. Although she didn't have a formal education, she picked

up on the intellectual environment created by her father and his visitors.

Mary was quite bright and began reading the writings of her mother around

the age of eight. She had memorized every word by the age of ten. Mary

spent many hours at her favorite reading spot, her mother's grave.

Percy Shelley, a poet, was an admirer and friend of William Godwin

and spent a great deal of time at the Godwin house. Shelley also admired the

writings of Mary's mother. Mary was impressed by him and their friendship

rapidly grew. They were inseparable. Percy was married with his second

child on the way but they believed that they should follow their hearts rather

than be bound by laws. Percy and Mary eloped and were married a month

before Mary's seventeenth birthday. Percy was twenty-two. They spent the next few years traveling in Switzerland, Italy, and Germany.

During these years, there was a lot of financial difficulty and personal

tragedy. After they got married, Percy's father cut off his allowance which

left them broke. Then Mary's half sister committed suicide and

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