Celebrate Women's History Month

Women's History Month at Perma-Bound
Women's History Month: Mary Shelley, creator of "Frankenstein"

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851), was the author of the iconic 1818 Gothic novel, Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. She was also an advocate for equality in an era when women had few rights.

Born Mary Godwin to radical political philosopher William Godwin and women's rights activist Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, the future  

Mary Shelley was raised in an unconventional household of scholars and step-relatives. In 1812, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley befriended Mary's father; in June 1814, Shelley abandoned his wife and persuaded the 16-year-old Mary to flee with him to Europe, accompanied by Mary's 16-year-old stepsister. The trio's six-week tour down the Rhine River caused a scandal that took years to die down.  

The bohemian household returned to England and spent a few years there; but, facing censure and the threat of debtor's prison (Shelley's outraged father, a wealthy baronet, had cut him off from his inheritance), they fled to Europe in late 1816, staying briefly with the poet Lord Byron at his villa on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. During this stay, Mary had a vivid dream that inspired Frankenstein.
Following Shelley's first wife's death, Shelley and Mary married in December 1816. They moved to Italy, where in September 1817, Mary delivered her first child and completed the manuscript for Frankenstein, to nearly immediate acclaim. Literary success did not preclude tragedy, however. Percy Shelley had incurable tuberculosis, and Mary lost several children, leaving her deeply depressed (she rebounded with the 1820 birth of son Percy Florence Shelley, her only child to survive to adulthood).
Tragedy struck again in 1822, when Percy Bysshe Shelley and a friend drowned in a boating accident off the coast of Viareggio, Italy. A heartbroken Mary returned with her son to England in 1823.
There, though she never remarried, she was courted by such luminaries as Washington Irving and Edward Trelawny, and she embarked on a prolific literary career. Her works included short stories, essays, and novels, including Lodore, in which she explored the suffering and disillusion that had haunted her life. An activist like her mother, Mary also aided women who had been shunned by society. Of one of these efforts, she wrote in her diary, "I do not make a boast--I do not say aloud--behold my generosity and greatness of mind--for in truth it is simple justice I perform--and so I am still reviled for being worldly."  
After her father-in-law's death in 1844 and her son's inheritance of his estate, Mary was financially secure, living her remaining years in peace with her son and his wife, writing and compiling the works of her late husband. Mary Shelley died February 1, 1851. However, her masterpiece and her vast influence on Western literature and culture live on.
Be sure to check out our special collection of titles in celebration of Women's History Month.   


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