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Women and Opinion about themselves

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) and Rosalie Ducrollay Jullien (1745-1824) were contemporaries during a time of tremendous social and political change at the end of the eighteenth century. These changes resulted in shifting ideas about women as well as women’s ideas about themselves shifting. Wollstonecraft was an intellectual, published author, and public figure whereas Jullien was a wife, mother, and her writings remained private until now. In their own ways, both women represent a break from traditional gender stereotypes – Wollstonecraft, publicly with her writing and lifestyle; Jullien in a much quieter way within her own family and through her private correspondence.

Your task is to imagine what these two women might have thought of one another. First, pretend you are Wollstonecraft. You’ve just met Jullien at a party and are now writing a letter to a friend about your new acquaintance, Rosalie Ducrollay Jullien. What opinions would Wollstonecraft form about Jullien after an evening of lively conversation in a Paris salon? Would she view her as one of the frivolous and manipulative women she excoriates in “Vindication” or would she see her as an exception to the rule? In other words, how would Wollstonecraft describe Jullien? Would she like her? Would she approve of her ideas about marriage and motherhood? Next, do the same thing with Jullien. Jullien has returned from the party and is sitting down to describe Wollstonecraft in a letter to her husband, Marc Antoine. How would she describe Wollstonecraft? Would she agree with Wollstonecraft’s opinions of women and society? What would she think about
Wollstonecraft’s proposals for education and her ideas about careers for women? Would she have liked her or found her off-putting, outrageous, or disrespectable?

The idea is to put these two women in a sort of imagined dialogue. Be sure format each entry as a formal letter with “Dear…” and a salutation. Get creative!! As always, however, use evidence from the text to support your claims!

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Category: Sample Questions