An enthusiastic partisan of the French Revolution, she wrote a reply to Burke, and eventually moved to Paris to enjoy the whole experience firsthand. Her A Vindication of the Rights of Women was written in hopes of inspiring her adopted nation to extend the application of its principles to include the female sex; translated into French, it was published in 1792, running to several editions.
Mary Wollstonecraft meets the enemy in their own territory and bases her arguments on utility. It is her contenton that if woman "is not prepared by education to become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of knowledge and virtue"
Although developing her thesis with arguments of utility, Wollstonecraft does not hesitate to have recourse to those of justice, as well. Addressing herself to Talleyrand (to whom she dedicated a later edition, in response to his Rapport sur l'instruction publique) she says:
"Consider whether, when men contend for their freedom, and to be allowed to judge for themselves respecting their own happiness, it be not inconsistent and unjust to subjugate women, even though you firmly believe that you are acting in a manner best calculated to promote their happiness In this style, argue tyrants of every denomination.
She calls the exclusion of women from participation in the "natural rights of mankind" a "flaw" in the new French constitution and warns that women will never be forcefully confined to domestic concerns but must always, however dangerously ignorant they are kept, manage to interfere in the affairs that one seeks to forbid them.
The bulk of Mary Wollstonecraft's work is a biting, satirical attack on her age's perception of and attitude towards women. What emerges is, for its day, a masterful sociological and psychological study of the causes of the subjugation of women and its effect on the characters of both sexes. She accuses her society of "considering females rather as women than human creatures," as though they were not quite part of the human species, but something strangely alien and different. It is the state of ignorance in which women are kept ("under the specious name of innocence") that Wollstonecraft blames for much of the folly and weakness for which men satirize and condemn them. Woman is treated, writes Wollstonecraft, as if "she was created to be the toy of man, his rattle, and it must jingle in his ears whenever, dismissing reason, he chooses to be amused."
Wollstonecraft complains that women are not only denied the opportunity to cultivate their reason, but they are also repeatedly told that it is not in their best interest to do so. "Confined in cages," she says, "like the feathered race, they have nothing to do but to plume themselves, and stalk with mock majesty from perch to perch. It is true that they are provided with food and raiment but health, liberty, and virtue are given in exchange." To liberate them, Mary Wollstonecraft would not only grant women full and equal educational opportunities, but she would also open access to numerous new areas of employment. As it is, she says, virtually the only means of subsistence open to women is prostitution, either of the common or "legal" variety (by the latter she means marriage). The degree to which women