Mary Godwin Shelley

On this date in 1797, Mary Godwin (later Shelley) was born in London to Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. Her mother, the famed champion of reason and author of the seminal feminist treatise, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, died ten days after her birth. Her father, a well-known atheist and radical, had attracted the admiration of atheist and poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Percy, also an admirer of Mary Wollstonecraft's writings, met Mary in 1814. At 16, Mary ran away with the romantic poet, who was unhappily married to another young woman and the father of two children. They fled to the continent. His first wife's suicide made it possible for the couple to marry in 1816. Their first two children died and their only surviving son, Percy, was born upon their return to England. At age 19, while living in Switzerland, Mary wrote the classic, philosophical horror story, Frankenstein, published in 1818, as a contest between herself, Percy and Lord Byron to write a "ghost story." The book was immediately successful, and has inspired more than 50 film adaptations. After her husband tragically drowned in 1822 in Italy, Mary returned to England, where she courted respectability on behalf of their surviving son. Mary worked as a professional writer, penning short stories, travel books, essays and several other novels, including The Last Man (1826), about the gradual demise of the human race during a plague. D. 1851.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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