These three works of fiction - two by Mary Wollstonecraft, the radical author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and one by her daughter Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein - are powerfully emotive stories that combine passion with forceful feminist argument. In Mary, the heroine flees her young husband in order to nurse her dearest friend, Ann, and finds genuine love, while Maria tells of a desperate young woman who seeks consolation in the arms of another man after the loss of her child. Matilda (suppressed for over a century) tells the story of a woman alienated from society by the incestuous passion of her father.
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97) was an educational, political and feminist writer who early in her life worked as a companion, teacher and governess. In 1788 she settled in London and began to work for the publisher Joseph Johnson, through whom she became part of the radical set that included Paine, Blake, Godwin and Fuseli. Her great work A Vindication of the Rights of Women was published in 1792. She lived in Paris during the French Revolution and had child with Gilbert Imlay, who subsequently deserted her. Following her return to London and attempted suicide, she married Godwin in 1797 shortly before the birth of her daughter Mary Shelley. She died in child birth. Mary Shelley (1797-1851) was born in London. In 1814 she met and fell in love with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and in July they eloped to the continent. They married in 1816 after Shelley's first wife committed suicide. They had four children, but only Percy Florence survived. They returned to London from Italy upon Shelley's death by drowning in 1822. Her best known work is Frankenstein. Janet Todd is a Professor at Glasgow University. She has edited Aphra Behn's Oroonoko, The Rover and Other Works and Love-Letters between a Nobleman and his Sister for Penguin Classics.