A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Chapter 2 summary and analysis

This is one of the earliest works on the rights of women’s education. Here we have provided you A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Chapter 2 summary and analysis. Mary Wollstonecraft writes this in response to Talleyrand’s pamphlet on national education. It is considered as a founding manifesto of Western feminism. 

Table of Contents

Chapter 2: Prevailing opinion of a Sexual character discussed :

Wollstonecraft argues that women should have virtue like men. Men claim that women don’t have virtue. She appreciates this claim but she also says the reason for this difference because how girls are raised. Society only appreciates women’s beauty, not their virtues and qualities that led to being a good human soul. 

Women’s Education:

Women lack in virtue because they are ignorant in society. Their main concern should be looking beautiful as long as they are beautiful, they don’t need to worry about anything else. They are symbols of innocent. But Wollstonecraft argues that innocence is a good thing unless we apply it to adults then it shows their weakness and dependence.

She argues that education should be for all. Generally, women are treated to be inferior to men. She argues the best education will “enable the individual to attain such habits of virtue as will render it independent.”

It is sad that society strictly limits female education. They prevent a woman from developing their reason. She said If men became perfect at “maturity,” maybe their wives could depend on them to guide her, but adult men “are often only overgrown children … if the blind lead the blind, one need not come from heaven to tell us the consequence.”

Wollstonecraft on Rousseau and Gregory:

Wollstonecraft admits that she might be considered arrogant for taking examples from famous male writers like Gregory and Rousseau. She criticizes Rousseau for his treatise “Emile” and Gregory for his book “A father’s legacy to his daughters.”

She says a relationship can not rely only on love; rather, friendship can play a vital role in a happy marital life. 


Wollstonecraft says society and male writers present women as “more artificial, weak characters, than they would otherwise have been.” She primarily targets Rousseau for his writing Emile. In this book, Rousseau describes the ideal education for a man, Emile, to become a good human being. Education that led to the development of virtue and morals in a young man. But on the other hand, Sophie, Emile’s intended wife taught to please his master and submit herself to him. She argues with Rousseau about this character. It should be noted that Rousseau doesn’t think women are stupider than men but should only do their “natural” role. 


Wollstonecraft criticized Gregory’s ” A father legacy to his daughters”.Gregory says that women should dress up to look good. He said a woman should not develop too much “delicacy of sentiment” They should not surpass their potential husband in terms of their virtues and qualities. But Wollstonecraft says a woman should acquire virtue for their own sake. Thus she says “acquire the qualities that ennoble a rational being,” and not “model [their souls] to suit the frailties”.


Wollstonecraft says that there is no comparison between men and women because women never get the same opportunity to show their virtues. People should first give them “room to unfold”.She urges that there is no risk to give women a chance to acquire greater virtue even if it’s proven that they are unequal to men in this way.

She says it is not necessary that men should always be better than women just like kings need not to prove better than ordinary men. (Thus she also criticized the monarchy system. She says kings have inferior virtue to the masses, yet they’re treated with reverence. We can consider she is against the monarchy system. )

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