Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, also known as Mary Shelley, was born on August 30th, 1797, in London, England. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was a feminist philosopher, an educator, and a writer. Her father, William Godwin, was a philosopher, a novelist, and a journalist. Shortly after Mary’s birth, her mother perished of puerperal fever. Her father was left alone and had to raise Mary and her wife’s first child, Fanny Imlay.
A year after Mary’s mother death, Godwin published his Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1798). It was intended as a tribute to his wife, yet it was quite unappreciated by the public, as the book revealed Wollstonecraft’s dishonorable past and illegitimate child (Fanny Imlay). Shelley, on the contrary, enjoyed the memoirs and desired to value her mother’s memory.
A few years past and the family lived a happy life, as demonstrated by the letters of Louisa Jones, Godwin’s housekeeper and nurse. But eventually, raising children alone became a rough task for Mary’s Father, thus he married a second wife, named Mary Jane Clairmont. The family’s atmosphere experienced a major change, as Clairmont arrived with two children of her own, and she later gave birth to a boy, which she had with Godwin. Mary did not enjoy her stepmother’s company, but she had to tolerate it.
Although she was never formally educated, Shelley knew how to read. As a child, she would read the books from her father’s library. She was often found reading by her mother’s grave, hence she still felt a deep connection with her. Writing was also a passion for Shelley: “As a child, I scribbled; and my favourite pastime, during the hours given me for recreation, was to write stories.” This passion remained for the rest of her life, as she became a renowned author.