SHE-LOGY: Happy Mother’s Day (UK & Ireland)
“THERE’S NO ONE WAY TO BE A PERFECT MOTHER,
AND A MILLION WAYS TO BE A GOOD ONE.”
MARY SHELLEY. 1797-1851.
Mary is the mother of Frankenstein, in the sense that a great novel is born from the imaginations of a great writer. The classic Frankenstein is considered the world’s first science fiction novel, which was published in 1818. Last week, it celebrated its 197th birthday.
Mary was only 18 when she started writing the story. There was a friendly competition on who could write the best horror story, among Mary, her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley (the Romantic poet), their friends Lord Byron (the poet and prominent figure in the Romantic movement), and John Polidori (English writer considered by some as the creator of the vampire genre). Only Mary completed a story which turned into a novel that was published when she was 20 years old. The first edition was published in London anonymously. Five years later, the second edition was published in France with her name on it.
MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT. 1759-1797.
Mary is the mother of Mary Shelley. She died barely two weeks after giving birth to Mary.
She was an English writer, philosopher, and advocate of women’s rights. She is best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education. She suggests that both men and women should be treated as rational beings and imagines a social order founded on reason.
MARY JANE CLAIRMONT GODWIN. 1766-1841.
Mary is the stepmother of Mary Shelley. She was married to William Godwin (Shelley’s father) 4 years after Wollstonecraft died. She is the mother of Claire Clairmont, who became the mother of Lord Byron’s daughter Allegra. (The story of this bunch is novel-material.)
Mary Jane Godwin’s reputation has suffered at the hands of Mary’s antipathy and slighting remarks made by those of Godwin’s friends who venerated his first wife Wollstonecraft. She should, however, be recognized as occupying a singular professional position, for, in the guise of M.J.Godwin & Co., operator of the Juvenile Library, she was the only female publisher of substance in the London literary world of the early 1800s. She was likewise a translator from the French and, in her business acumen, something of a bulwark against the financial improvidence of her husband. (Source: upenn.edu)
Mary, to me, is an example of a familiar female character — the vilified step-mother. Whether her reputation as Shelley’s step-mother is honorable or not, it is interesting to note how common wicked stepmothers are. It makes one wonder whether the villainy comes with the role or is naturally born from the stepchild who missed the true parent that passed, or whether the infamy of step-mothers is the product of a trend in fairy tale stories from Snow White’s wicked witch of a stepmom to Cinderella’s own wretched stepmom.
SHE-LOGY is a blog project open to everyone who is interested to celebrate women this whole month of March. If you’re reading this, I extend that invitation to you to contribute post/s about the women you’d like to honor. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for reading this.