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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Mary Radcliffe

b. circa 1746, England; d. after 1810, England

Mary Ann Radcliffe inherited a large fortune at a young age but most of it was wasted by an alcoholic husband who left Mary and their seven children destitute. She suffered a nervous breakdown and turned to poetry as an outlet for her emotional turmoil. Her most famous work, The Female Advocate: or, An Attempt to Recover the Rights of Woman from Male Usurpation (written 1792, published 1799), universalized her experience to all women. Linking women’s oppression to their economic dependency, she courageously stated that, given their options, prostitution was the most profitable occupation. Critical reception was harsh.