It’s Alive!!!!: Mary Shelley Has a Word to Say about Mother’s Day by Carolyn Lee Boyd

The monster and Elizabeth from movie Frankenstein, 1931, Universal Studios, Public Domain

As Mother’s Day beckons, Mary Shelley would like to have a word, or rather a novel’s worth of words. Her novel 200-year-old Frankenstein Or a Modern Prometheus has much to say today about the essential matristic values of nurturing and life-giving, women’s reproductive and other rights, parenthood and child care, and more. The novel’s two centuries of play, film, and book adaptations, most recently Kris Waldherr’s excellent Unnatural Creatures: A Novel of the Frankenstein Women, attest to Frankenstein’s continuing relevance to profound aspects of human experience.

First, let’s look at what might have influenced the writing of Frankenstein. Mary Shelley was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women which in 1792 championed educational and employment opportunities for women. She advocated for women to be treated as full human beings rather than as mere objects of beauty whose inherent “hysteria” made rational thought impossible. Wollstonecraft cited the benefits to society of mothers who can properly educate their children. Wollstonecraft died soon after giving birth to Shelley and was vilified for a previous illegitimate daughter. 

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