The Shelleys, Godwins, and Wollstonecrafts in Literature and Rare Books

What do anarchism, science fiction, women’s rights, and Romanticism have in common?  One family!  William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Percy Shelley wrote in different genres but the writings of all four continue to provoke thought and provide enjoyment centuries later.  You can learn more about this fascinating family by viewing their works in Hornbake Library’s Literature and Rare Books collection!

William Godwin was a British philosopher, novelist, and a radical critic of British government and society in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Godwin was a proponent of utilitarianism and anarchism, and many of the radical critiques of these schools of thought can be found in his writings.  For example in St. Leon: A Tale of the Sixteenth Century Godwin ponders the value of the aristocracy and questions what truly makes people free.

In 1797, Godwin married Mary Wollstonecraft.  Like Godwin, Wollstonecraft was an author and philosopher.  Wollstonecraft is best known for writing a Vindication of the Rights of Women,  a work that was highly influential on the early women’s rights movement.  In Vindication, Wollstonecraft argues that a lack of education, rather than inherent differences due to sex, is what prevents women from achieving the same things as men.  You can find both the 1794 edition and the 1796 edition in the Literature and Rare Books collection.

Godwin and Wollstonecraft had one daughter, Mary.  Wollstonecraft died shortly after Mary’s birth and Mary was raised by her father and step-mother.  At age 16, Mary met the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.  Percy, despite his aristocratic birth, was a follower of Godwin’s radical political views.  Despite the fact that Percy was already married, the two fell in love and fled along with Mary’s stepsister, Claire, to Switzerland.

In Switzerland, Mary would write Frankenstein, her best known work. Hornbake has several fascinating editions of Frankenstein such as a specialty edition given out to the armed forces during World War II and an edition featuring engravings from the acclaimed artist Lynd Ward.

While Frankenstein is what Mary is most well known for, she continued to write in a variety of genres after it was published.  Her novel Lodore follows a widow and her daughter as they struggle to find their way in a patriarchal culture after the death of her husband.  Mary also wrote a travel narrative, Rambles in Germany and Italy in 1840, 1842, and 1843.

Mary’s literary output also included editing her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley’s works after his passing.  Mary edited volumes of Percy’s poetry that were published in 1824, 1839, 1840, 1854, and 1892.  Hornbake’s Rare Books collection also includes works that were published before Shelley’s death such as Posthumous Fragments of Margaret Nicholson, The Revolt of Islam: A Poem, in Twelve Cantos, and Rosalind and Helen: A Modern Eclogue: With Other Poems.

Writings by Wollstonecraft, Godwin, and the Shelleys are only a portion of what Literature and Rare Books has to offer.  For more information about our holdings contact us!


Caroline Ackiewicz, Candidate for Master of Library & Information Science, University of Maryland.

New Exhibit on Intersectional Feminism Now on Display

A new exhibit in the Maryland Room celebrates Black and Women’s History Months. Two cases showcase works by and about black women, including essays, poetry, and black student newspapers. They feature civil rights icons like Angela Davis, Pauli Murray, Maya Angelou, and Shirley Chisholm. 

Another case explores intersectional feminism as a whole. It includes documents by and about lesbian and trans women, disabled women, Native American and Chicana women, working class women, older women, and women from developing countries. 

What is intersectional feminism? Put simply, intersectional feminism emphasizes the fact that all women have different experiences and identities. People are often disadvantaged by more than one source of oppression: their race, class, sexual orientation, religion, or nationality may affect their experience as a woman. Intersectionality explores how multiple identities interact with each other, especially within the frameworks of oppression and marginalization. 

Continue reading

Women’s History Month: Defining “Normal”, Pt. III

Just in case you can’t visit the display in Hornbake Library, Defining “Normal,” here are some of the items we’re featuring to celebrate Women’s History Month!

Two feminists, two strategies

Both Dorothy Sucher and Djuna Barnes were women’s rights advocates, but they led very different lives.

Click to enlarge. From the Dorothy Sucher Collection, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

Click to enlarge. From the Dorothy Sucher Collection, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries. http://hdl.handle.net/1903.1/1404

Dorothy Sucher

How do we define Dorothy Sucher?

  • Mother
  • Mystery writer and founder of the Mid-Atlantic region of Sisters in Crime
  •  Psychotherapist, with a Masters of Mental Health from Johns Hopkins University
  •  Creative writing teacher at Georgetown University, Duke University, and the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland
  •  Editor, reporter, and columnist for Greenbelt News Review
  •  Watercolor artist
  •  Women’s rights activist and Maryland’s Consciousness Raising Coordinator for the National Organization for Women
  •  Normal?

 

Djuna Barnes being forcibly fed. New York World Magazine, September 6, 1914. Djuna Barnes Papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland. http://hdl.handle.net/1903.1/1512

Djuna Barnes being forcibly fed. New York World Magazine, September 6, 1914. Djuna Barnes Papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland. http://hdl.handle.net/1903.1/1512

Djuna Barnes

Djuna Barnes was a women’s rights activist, newspaper reporter, author and artist. Brooklyn Museum curator Catherine Morris describes Barnes’s reporting style as “stunt journalism” (see the NPR All Things Considered story Embracing the Quirkiness of Djuna Barnes).

For one of her articles, Djuna Barnes researched the force-feeding of British suffragettes by subjecting herself to the same treatment.

HOW IT FEELS TO BE FORCIBLY FED

Djuna Barnes, New York World Magazine September 6, 1914

“I shall be strictly professional, I assured myself. If it be an ordeal, it is familiar to my sex at this time; other women have suffered it in acute reality. Surely I have as much nerve as my English sisters? Then I held myself steady. I thought so, and I caught sight of my face in the glass. It was quite white; and I was swallowing convulsively.

And then I knew my soul stood terrified before a little yard of red rubber tubing.”

Read the original at Digital Collections at University of Maryland Libraries (requires Flash).

 

 

 

Women’s History Month: New display!

SingleGirl_Cover

Cover: Brown, Walter C. The single girl; a medical doctor’s intimate report on the problems of the unmarried female in our contemporary society.  Derby: Monarch Books. 1961. HQ800.2 .B76 1961 

As women’s history month comes to a close, we’ve changed our display case to feature more of the amazing women whose legacies fill our collections. The display will be extended through April 7 because of the University of Maryland’s Spring Break last week. Come back after that for a display in honor of Maryland Day, held on April 27, 2013.

Defining “Normal”

March 24 – April 07, 2013

Dr. Brown, author of The Single Girl, claims that the abnormal woman must “re-channel her existence via adjustment, sublimation, or a return to the normal, in order to find real happiness.”

How do women define normal? Clearly, not all of us have identical goals, lifestyles, and beliefs. This month, we celebrate the complex diversity of women and each individual’s right to find her personal definition of “real happiness.”

From the back cover of The Single Girl by Dr. Walter C. Brown:

 Who is the single girl? How does she live? How did she get that way?

Here is a book which examines her problems—lesbianism, bisexualism, alcoholism, frigidity, nymphomania, narcissism, sadomasochism, or asexualism—and seeks to gain some measure of understanding of the various  types of girls who get trapped by so-called single blessedness.

Through illuminating case histories culled from his private files, Dr. Brown probes into the lives of unmarried women and explains why—having chosen or been forced into an abnormal live—the single girl must re-channel her existence via adjustment, sublimation or a return to the normal, in order to find real happiness.