Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women and Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

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Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women and Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Although Mary Wollstonecraft and Harriet Jacobs lived almost 300 years apart from one

another, the basic undercurrent of both of their work is the same. Wollstonecraft was a feminist

before her time and Jacobs was a freed slave who wanted more than just her own freedom.

Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and Jacobs’ Incidents In the Life of a

Slave Girl, Written By Herself were both revolutionary texts that were meant to inspire change

and the liberation of a group of people. For Wollstonecraft, this was women; for Jacobs, it was

the slaves. On the surface, these two works do not
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This training from birth is also like that of

slavery, in which humans of a different skin color are subjected to servitude for no other reason,

insignificant objects owned by a powerful master. Jacobs tells of an incident in which her brother

was forced to choose between his natural rights and the ones forced upon him, “One day, when

his father and his mistress both happened to call him at the same time, he hesitated between the

two; being perplexed to know which had the strongest claim upon his obedience” (Jacobs 423).

Even though the little boy knows that his father has claim to him, he still goes to his master,

knowing that she has complete control over him, defining him, even above the law of his parents.

This objectification of women and slaves leads to their dehumanization; by treating them as

objects, those that are oppressing them are destroying their senses of self-identity. Jacobs says

more of her father, “Moreover, they thought he had spoiled his children, by teaching them to

feel that they were human beings. This was blasphemous doctrine for a slave to teach;

presumptuous in him, dangerous to the masters” (Jacobs 424). This illustrates a key point: the

dehumanization of the slaves, and of women, is necessary for the master to retain control. If a

slave realized he was a human being, with rights and important feelings, a master would not be

able to have control over
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