[The prevailing opinion, that woman was created for man, may have taken its rise from Moses's poetical story; yet as very few, it is presumed, who have bestowed any serious thought on the subject, ever supposed that Eve was, literally speaking, one of Adam's ribs, the deduction must be allowed to fall to the ground; or, only be so far admitted as it proves that man, from the remotest antiquity, found it convenient to exert his strength to subjugate his companion, and his invention to shew that she ought to have her neck bent under the yoke; because she, as well as the brute creation, was created to do his pleasure.--M. Wollstonecraft (1792), A Vindication of the Rights Woman (hereafter Vindication), Chapter 2. (25). [Here and below the page-numbers refer to the Dover Thrift reprint, while the provided links refer to the third (1796) edition.--ES]
"Nature, or, to speak with strict propriety, God,"--Vindication, chapter 2, (29).
Upon re-reading the Vindication in preparation for a class discussion, the second epigraph to this post, which we may loosely translate as Natura sive Deus, startled me. Could Wollstonecraft, who so often sounds like a Deist, be a kind of Spinozist? For, Wollstonecraft is quite clear that "propriety" is just "another word for convenience." (106) So, the substitution of "Nature" by "God" is really an act of social expedience. Yet, could this really be so? For, so much of Wollstonecraft's argument seems to rely on commitments that require commitment to immortal souls and, presumably, a judging God (and one can find other Deist commitments).